Assuming that Gatland isn’t going to come out in the press conference and say, “to be honest lads, I was a bit drunk, so please ignore this team and I’ll have a proper one for you in an hour”, it seems that this is the match squad the Lions have for the deciding Third Test in Sydney this Saturday. The Twitter has gone what can technically be described as ‘effing ballistic’, particularly about the omission of Brian O’Driscoll, but let’s try and decipher what this selection is all about, and decide, section by section, whether it’s any GOOD.
Front Row – Alex Corbisiero, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones
The Lions’ biggest issue last week was in the forwards and particularly in the scrum. Many will make the argument that there was a lot of illegality in the scrums and so the selection last week were diddled a bit by that; but given that such illegality happens all the time this must be treated as the norm and selections made on that basis. Corbisiero did enough in the first Test to warrant a recall after injury; Hibbard offers more in the tight that Youngs and Adam is Adam. So, all in all, this one is GOOD.
Second Row – Geoff Parling, Alun-Wyn Jones (C)
This one is more of a mystery. Parling was a bit lightweight last week and also did not perform the line out services we can normally expect from him. Richie Grey has had a decent tour and deserved a run out in what is probably the only position where that has been no outstanding candidate. AWJ was on everyone’s teamsheet, but not as captain. However, he has captained his club all season and there was another Lions captain from the boilerhouse who took the armband with very little captaincy experience elsewhere. I seem to remember he did OK. SHT, because of Parling.
Back Row – Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien, Toby Faletau
With Sam injured this was always going to see change, and O’Brien in his place is a selection most would’ve made; ditto that of the retention of Lydiate, who was pretty outstanding in the Second Test. Faletau for Heaslip is the outlier here, but this blog would’ve made this change as Heaslip’s control at the base of the scrum has been appalling and Faletau offers more in the loose as he makes better runs, has better hands and you lose nothing in defence with him. GOOD
Half Backs – Mike Phillips, Jonny Sexton
This blog would not have dropped Phillips last week, so him being reinstated is right for us; however it’s still a bit of a mystery as to why he had to miss a game. Sexton is obviously the best 10 available, but really needs to kick territory better. GOOD.
Centres – Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies
No Brian O’Driscoll. On the face of it this is worst decision since Will James as an international player in 2007, but is it really that bad? While his defence has been stout as ever, BOD has not been on great form from an attacking point of view and he has given away three key penalties at the breakdown, but his experience could be missed in this most crunchy of crunch matches. In Davies’ defence, we are told that Lions tours are all about combinations, and Roberts & Davies are a proven combination straight off the shelf which, ergo, must be a good thing. Many in the social media have pointed to the fact that Davies missed the tackle on Ashley-Cooper for the try at the weekend, but after a team defending for thirty minutes solid it is unfair to single one player out. I would hope that the plan this week does not involve the kind of non-play and endless tackling that marked the Lions’ second half in the last outing, please God…
Roberts was always going to start once fit. GOOD
Back Three – George North, Tommy Bowe, Leigh Hafpenny
No brainer. GOOD
So there you go. For all the hysteria this morning this is a team that may have some talking points, but you cannot really say there are any aneurysm-inducing howlers. Even the BOD non-selection has a logic to it. But that’s only what I think, I’m sure you’ve all some thoughts of your own so let’s have them