So we are not even 24 hours into the new Lions season and already twitter has blown its collective tops.
Some of the team picked itself. Whilst some picks smack of madness, we all appear to have forgotten is that Warren Gatland is actually crazy. He has been a ball of crazy for years. Between drumming up false agro between Wales and Ireland, to throwing his toys out of the pram after a lackluster tenure as Ireland coach he has always been great to listen to. I would imagine he is a nightmare for any rugby union.
In fairness to Gatland, he has had an immense affect on the Wales rugby team. Multiple grand slams and being able to turn players who do not perform for their clubs, into world beaters. This made him odds on favorite to be names lions coach.
He put the crazy hat on and picked a big, tough and strong team. He has been very conservative in leaving players like Madigan and Zebo at home. He has picked players who have not played a full season. Tommy Bowe is no doubt a class player, but he has 4 games under his belt since coming back from injury. He has picked Dylan Hartley ahead of Rory best or Richardt Strauss. This is the first mad decision. Best didn’t do himself any favors in the middle of the season by missing throws, I am talking about the crooked throws not the bad calls, but he was dominant against Hartley when Ulster played against Northampton.
Starting with the backs, he has picked Kearney, Hogg and Halfpenny. A really good strong bunch of fullbacks. Kearney should be favorite to start the first test, but the other two will have plenty of game time.
The wingers are, Bowe, North, Cuthbert and Maitland. Again this is a strong group. The only question would be Tommy Bowe’s fitness. That aside this is a big potent strong set of wingers who will not be easily stopped.
The centre’s are, the notorious BO’D, Tuilagi, Roberts and Davies. The best thing about the last tour was watching O’Driscoll and Roberts tear through the opposition. The only question here is Tuilagi and if he will be able to keep out of the water. He hasn’t been at his best this year, but I think that red jersey will bring him back to his fearsome self.
The fly halves are where another dose of madness is administered. Farrell and Sexton have been selected. The word is that Wilkinson was asked to go and turned it down. Two fly halves is madness. They will have to be at 100% all the way through the tour. There should be at least 3 going. If another is added then it should be Ian Madigan. That is with me taking my blue tinted glasses off. He has been the best 10 in the rabo all year. He has consistently been winning games for Leinster and, at the end of the day, he deserves the opportunity.
The scrum halves have also caused an issue in twitterland. Phillips, Youngs and Murray have been selected. There are a large number of people who think Murray should not be there. I disagree. He has ‘manned up’ (for lack of a better term) in 2013. He may still be slightly slow to pass, but his ball carrying is on par with Phillips and his game management has improved hugely. No one has come up with a good replacement for Murray.
Now we get into the business end of the team. The pack consists of Healy, Jenkins, Vunipola, jones, Cole and Stevens. The only question here for me is Dan Cole. The inexperience of Vunipola will be balanced by the experience in the pack around him. Cole, for me, is the weak link here. But he may be the sub player in the front row.
The hookers are Hartley, Hibbard and Youngs. Hartley should not be on the plane. This may be just irrational hatred on my part, but I find him to be an arrogant scumbag who is the darling of the English rugby media and sky sports. Stuart Barnes appears to be the md of the Hartley fan club. I would also assume that Rory best has been told not to go on holiday this summer.
The locks are about as strong as could be picked. O’Connell, Evans, Gray, Jones and Parling are on the plane. This will scare the Wallabies faeces-less. O’Connell is more than a player. He does for the pack what O’Driscoll does for the backs. This is a great selection on mad Gatland’s part.
The back row is also about as good as could be. Heaslip, O’Brien, Croft, Faletau, Lydiate, Tipuric and Warburton. Gatland got this right.
The last thing is the captaincy. Warburton has been given the nod. Even though the captaincy was taken off him during the 6 Nations. I really do not think this is the right call. Surely O’Driscoll was the better call? He has been leading every team he has played for since 1999. He does not need the armband. It would appear that Warburton was promised the captaincy a long time ago. I just do not understand how he is the best candidate.
As for the players left out, Mike Ross and Ian Madigan are two Leinster players that can feel aggrieved. Donncha Ryan, Simon Zebo and Peter O’Mahony can also feel let down by the team selection. I would switch Zebo with Bowe and have Madigan going as the 3rd 10. There are still players to be added though, so we may still see the boys on the plane yet.
It is a good, strong, conservative selection by Gatland. With Pocock out of the series along with managerial unrest, it looks like this Lions team can devour the Wallabies.
As usual, if you would like to debate/abuse me, then please feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me @nkeegan. Also, if you enjoy this blog, then please feel free to share with the masses.
For those of you lucky enough to be going, enjoy! And to the rest of us who cannot afford the trip, I’ll see you down the pub on the 1st June.