Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Lions Test Places - Part 1



Two games in, it's a good opportunity to look at test places, who has put their hand up, and those who have firmly rested on their laurels, and are just happy to be there.

Loosehead:

Not many things can be concluded with Cian Healy's injury, although Mako Vunipola has validated his place on tour, and is in contention for test consideration, most likely on the bench.

Hooker:

Hibbard went ok in Hong Kong, and Youngs hasn't had much opportunity, but Rory Best was average around the park, and two bad lineouts after the 6 Nations are a big black mark on him.

Tighthead:

There isn't much you can conclude from these games. Both Cole and Jones seemed to have the upper hand in the scrum, but neither were very prominent in the loose. Cole probably gains more, but Jones is still ahead.

Second Row:

O'Connell was magnificent in the Hong Kong game and must be nailed on. Alun Wyn Jones would be next, although was anonymous against the Force, and the yellow card will be a black mark. Gray did well against the Barbarians, but needs to show more after his poor season, while Parling was the best second row on display today, albeit from the bench and can't be discounted.

Flankers:

The most competitive place, Justin Tipuric was very good against the Barbarians, as was Sean O'Brien against the Force. They are the form pair, with Croft getting a try he's not far away, although Lydiate performed well last Saturday. With captain Warburton assured of his place, Tipuric has to play amazing to persuade Gatland to move Warbs to 6. Although Sean O'Brien needs a chance at 6 too. Big competition here.

No. 8.

via telegraph.co.uk


While not nailed on yet, I think Heaslip great performance today edges him ahead of Faletau. Top tackler, most metres gained, with 16 carries including 5 linebreaks, Heaslip has carried on from his impressive end of season form. He is also a better lineout option than Faletau which will be vital.

Scrumhalf:

Phillips all but pencilled himself in last week, and while Murray did well on Saturday and comes into contention for the bench spot, he wasn't as good today, while Youngs hasn't had a chance.

Outhalf:

It's Sexton's. End of story, hopefully Farrell's try today gives him confidence and means he can do well when coming on.

Centres:

via rugby365.com
Brian O'Driscoll was outstanding today, showing pace and quickness of thought. He was everywhere rolling back the years. He must start. Jon Davies was lauded on Saturday, but I don't think he is in O'Driscoll's league. Tuilagi did well today, and his partnership with O'Driscoll might be worth looking at, but Roberts was prominent on Saturday and is ahead of him at 12.

Wingers:

via telegraph.co.uk
Tommy Bowe showed a great work ethic, and his great finishing, and running lines and given his freshness seems to be coming into form at the right time. He must start on one wing, with George North playing well, and Cuthbert finishing well, it must be between the two Welsh wings for the other slot.

Fullback:

Halfpenny is miles ahead of the rest, especially with his flawless kicking. Hogg did very well against the Barbarians, and his time will come, but perhaps not on this tour. The only way Kearney can come into contention, especially after the injury, is if Israel Folau dominates in the air in the first test, and Halfpenny is moved to the wing to accomodate his aerial ability. Not to be discounted.