2013 Lions Squad

This morning at 11am the squad for the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour to Australia was announced. As always there were a number of surprises, both in terms of players included and players omitted. Below is a brief overview of the 37-man touring party.

(PROP) D Cole, C Healy, G Jenkins, A Jones, M Stevens, M Vunipola.

I think we all knew that the first 4 players named above would be going. The big question was who would join them. Mako Vunipola was a name that many were talking about, but the selection of Matt Stevens seems to have taken pretty much everybody by surprise. It’s probably fair to say that Vunipola is a prop known for his ability around the park rather than his scrummaging. He is particularly good at making an impact from the bench when the game has opened up.

(HOOKER) D Hartley, R Hibbard, T Youngs.

The big surprise was the omission of Rory Best, who many people thought would compete with Hibbard for a starting place in the test team. His name was even mentioned in discussions about possible captains! It’s true that he didn’t play well in the Six Nations, but he must feel absolutely gutted to have been overlooked. I must admit that I was a bit taken aback when I heard the names Hartley and Youngs. Hartley didn’t get much game time during the Six Nations and has a history of fighting, biting, possibly gouging and a whole host of other misdemeanours. Youngs was alright during the Six Nations, without being spectacular. Ken Owens was very impressive in the Six Nations whenever he made an appearance off the bench and must feel a bit disappointed. Looks a bit like Rowntree got his way on these selections.

(LOCK) I Evans, R Gray, A W Jones, P O’Connell, G Parling.

The inclusions of I Evans, A W Jones and P O’Connell came as no surprise. Parling has performed really well for club and country and probably just about beat Launchbury to a place in the squad. Many of us were worried that Richie Gray wouldn’t have recovered from his injury in time for the tour, but his selection certainly comes as welcome news. Gray is a phenomenal athlete who will contend seriously for a starting place in the test team.

(FLANKER) T Croft, D Lydiate, S O’Brien, J Tipuric, S Warburton.

O’Brien, Tipuric and Warburton all deserve to go and were all expected to be named. Only somebody as crazy as Stuart Barnes would say otherwise.

(http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/british-irish-lions-2013-stuart-3307617)

Many feared that Lydiate would miss out due to the fact that he missed the Six Nations through injury, but it is brilliant to see such a magnificent tackler in the squad. Croft gives us more options at the lineout and adds pace to the back row. With so many great flankers in the home nations there were always going to be a number of top quality players missing out. Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, Ryan Jones, and Peter O’Mahony were all in with a chance, but didn’t make it into the 37-man squad. I feel particularly sorry for Robshaw and Ryan Jones. Ryan was immense for Wales in the Six Nations campaign and would have captained us to victory over England had he not picked up an injury. He’s been impressive for the Ospreys all season too and must feel very low after bad experiences in 2005 and 2009.

(NO.8) T Faletau, J Heaslip.

Faletau totally deserves his place, but Heaslip was very disappointing in the Six Nations as Ireland imploded and must consider himself extremely lucky. I would rather have seen Ben Morgan or Johnny Beattie join Faletau on tour.

(SCRUM-HALF) C Murray, M Phillips, B Youngs.

At the moment Mike Phillips is the clear favourite to start the first test, but Youngs and Murray will definitely push him. I thought Ben Youngs would be named and quite rightly so, but I was really unsure about who the 3rd scrum-half would be. I thought it would be between Danny Care and Conor Murray and I’m pleased that the management have gone for the more physical Murray. This is probably a good indication of the way that Gatland is hoping to play out in Australia.

(OUTSIDE-HALF) O Farrell, J Sexton.

Outside-half is probably our weakest area. Unfortunately, both Farrell and Sexton have shown that they have the potential to crumble when things aren’t going their way. We needed a 10 who is reliable under pressure and can close out tight games. We have two specialist outside-halves, but a really puzzling fact is that no utility back has been selected. We have nobody capable of covering at 10 if Sexton or Farrell get injured. If one of them badly pulls a muscle in the warm-up just before a game, then who will be on the bench as cover for the starting 10? I was expecting Hook, Twelvetrees or even Laidlaw to be on tour in case such a thing was to happen. Wilkinson outplayed Farrell in every area of the Toulon v Saracens game on Sunday and it’s such a shame that he feels his French commitments and his current physical state won’t allow him to go on tour. We badly need somebody of his calibre.

(CENTRE) J Davies, B O’Driscoll, J Roberts, M Tuilagi.

Sometimes people talk as if it’s easy to switch between 12 and 13 and players need more or less the same skill set and physical attributes. In the modern game that seems to be becoming less and less true. The roles have become more specialised and rugby now is a game of very small margins indeed. For these reasons I’m confused that the management have gone for just one 12 (Roberts) and three 13s. I’ve never liked O’Driscoll when he’s been at 12 and Jonathan Davies definitely doesn’t have the passing game to play at second receiver. Tuilagi himself has been very clear about the fact that he sees himself exclusively as a 13. Billy Twelvetrees is very lucky not to have been selected. He has the footballing ability to do something a bit different at 12. With things as they are though, I’m looking forward to seeing Roberts paired with Tuilagi.

(WING) T Bowe, A Cuthbert, S Maitland, G North.

No surprises here. I might have been tempted to take Visser instead of Maitland and Zebo instead of Bowe, but ultimately I’m pretty happy with these wingers. Is it too biased of me to say that North and Cuthbert are favourites to start at this point? The management seem to have resisted the pressure to pick Christian Wade for his elusive running, going instead for power and physicality. I guess we always have the option of moving Hogg or Halfpenny to the wing for a bit more elusiveness.

(FULLBACK) L Halpenny, S Hogg, R Kearney.

No surprises here either. The only other contender would be Alex Goode, but realistically he managed to play himself out of contention during the Six Nations. Lee Byrne might have been an option if it was for his French commitments. He has been playing extremely well in a very good Clermont Auvergne team. Halfpenny might well be the favourite to start at the moment, but Hogg will put a lot of pressure on him with his running game. With a big powerful centre partnership Gatland might well want someone with Hogg’s running ability coming into the attacking line from fullback.

So what do you make of the squad?

Who would you have included that didn’t get selected?

Who got selected that you would have omitted?

Is this squad good enough to beat the Aussies?

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7 Responses to 2013 Lions Squad

  1. Buccaneer says:

    At first glance I thought Grant and Murray could have felt hard done by. You aren’t the first to mention Vunipola will probably be used as an impact sub while Grant is more of a starter.

    Farrell/Sexton will have played a lot of rugby by the time the first test rolls around and there is not much creativity between the 4 centers. Taking these 2 things into account I am very surprised at Hooks omission. I think I have mentioned here before I am a fan of Hooks style and what he brings.

    I am worried the test team may have a lack of a plan B if things go wrong. Murrays delivery is not as quick as Philips, Farrell does not offer much with ball in hand, aforementioned lack of creative centers (no utility back in any case) and needs to get the back row plus bench option dead on

  2. Buccaneer says:

    At first glance I thought Grant and Murray could have felt hard done by. You aren’t the first to mention Vunipola will probably be used as an impact sub while Grant is more of a starter.

    I think I have mentioned here before I am a fan of Hooks style and what he brings. Surprised he didnt make the cut. Not much creativity in the center and only 2 FH options.

    I am worried the test team may have a lack of a plan B if things go wrong. Murrays delivery is not as quick as Philips, Farrell does not offer much with ball in hand, aforementioned lack of creative centers (no utility back in any case) and needs to get the back row plus bench option dead on

  3. AndyGardiner says:

    Apparently Stuart Hogg can provide cover at 10!!! Reassuring isn’t it?! Maybe Sir Clive was on to something and we should just take 4/5 fly-halves…

  4. Hywel says:

    I think Rory Best is the glaring omission. Didn’t think he was that bad in the Six Nations, even if his throwing was a bit off. His part in Zebo’s try in the first game showed he’s got a very good all round skill set. Matt Stevens is a very strange one. When he came back for England after his ban he just didn’t look at the races and left the international arena fairly quickly. I agree about the 10s. It’s very odd. With no utility back it means that both 10s will have to play or be on the bench for every single game of the tour, that’s crazy! Delighted for all the Welsh boys though, so well deserved. Gutted for Ryan and Dan Biggar. We all know how good Ryan is and I think Dan really stepped up to the international game in the Six Nations. Farrell has to perform in a big game soon or he’s going to get a reputation as a choker, and the longer that goes on the more pressure there’ll be on him on big games. I fully expect him to get over it as he’s a good young payer, but his image as the iceman has taken a bit of a hit recently. BTW Wales announce their tour for Japan tomorrow, can’t wait!

  5. Lee Hier says:

    Im surprised at Rory Best’ exclusion, he would have made my test team. Also Ken Owens has been playing very well for club and country and would have made a fantastic impact player from the bench. Im now concerned over our 3 young hoovers. Hibbard has to start now, and if he gets injured early on in the tour its up to the English lads to take over. Ive got a feeling we might see Best before the tour is over. I frankly rate Owens above Heartly and Youngs but wish them well.

    Great to see Lydiate in to squad, exciting times to come when hes back for Wales. He is an incredible talent and I think hes a better Back row player than Robshaw. However, given that Lydiate has had such little game time, I’d have taken Robshaw over Lydiate, and let Lydiate get back in to form during the Japan tour. Robshaw is a very hard worker and I feel he is more suited to play 6.

    Im glad Bowe is in the squad. His experience will be priceless I think. Along side North, they are my test wingers. I understand Gats choosing Bowe over Zebo, Zebo has fantastic skills no doubt but Bowe is a brilliant finisher and also edges him with experience.

    Its gonna be very tough for the two 10’s playing every game of the series. I think we’ll see the likes of Flood, Biggar and Hook at some point. Perhaps not all three but most likely one or two.

  6. Leigh Halfpenny says:

    Really happy with being selected. Just to let you know, I’m actually the utility back in the squad. I can play anywhere really, probably start me at 10.

  7. Y Ddraig Goch - In Somerset says:

    I am surprised and saddened that Ryan Jones is not named. As a utility player and a leader, he is a huge asset.

    Fly half is the issue. I don’t think Farrell is sharp enough when in possession. I would even have considered Wilkinson if he was available (first time I’ve ever said that, so it must be critical !) I will be watching the Japan mission to see how the fly half role unfolds for Wales: I think there is new blood coming through just as we need it. And I agree – I can’t see how they can avoid playing both for every game, which seems odd – and exposed to a huge risk of injury.

    I would have taken Hook as my bench fly half/full back.

    But I suppose politics and good manners demands that we think of players who aren’t Welsh. You can only take so many of the boys.

    So I would have included Best in preference to Hartley. With an easy soul now that Owens is out injured.

    The Test selections will be difficult.

    Good luck to them all anyway !

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