The British and Irish Lions are about to tour Australia. For those of you not familiar with rugby the Lions are a team made up from players from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and they tour one of the big 3 rugby nations every 4 years (Either Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). Since the Lions only visit an individual country once every 12 years the players in these countries only get a single chance to play the Lions and for the host nation it is up there with the world cup. Anyway this year it’s Australia’s year.
For the last couple of years Australian Rugby has not been at its best and a lot of people are anticipating an easy tour victory. I fear they are wrong, not because I’m an Auz-o-phile (I’m not I love to see them beaten at anything and everything) but because a lot of the Lions the home are under estimating the strength of the Aus team and over estimating the strength of the Lions.
I not going to go through all the players on the team but I have serious doubts over several selections/ non-selections. Since I’m English I keep most of my comments to them otherwise the non English out there will think I’m too partisan.
Robshaw – He’s really unlucky not to be going after performing heroically week in week out for nearly all the whole season for club and country, captained England to victory over NZ and only faded in the last couple of weeks of the season I think through exhaustion. He is also a tireless carrier of the ball something I think is lacking in the Lions squad.
Stevens - I have no idea what the selectors see in Steven all he’s good for is giving away penalties.
Croft - (this will be controversial in the Midlands) was out most of the season and only looks good when he hangs about on the wing scoring tries. As a blind side wing forward he’s normally absent without leave. His inclusion in a test team will leave the forwards under powered at the breakdown and if you can’t get the ball you won’t win.
Morgan - should have been in because the Lions are short of ball carriers, players who can make the “Hard Yards”. Many of the props don’t carry, the second rows are mobile but short of bulk and the same is true in the back row.
Wilkinson – I agree with him being left out. He’s too old and frail.
From the other countries O’Driscoll should not be on the plane, he’s past it, and O’Connell is exceedingly lucky having played only a couple of times this year due to injury.
I also worry about Warburton as captain – I’m not convinced he will get through a tour such as this uninjured.
Scotland must feel offended by only having 3 players in the squad especially as one of those has only been in the UK for 10 minutes. I know they came bottom of the pile this year but they are not that far behind. Kelly brown is unlucky not to be going and Maitland should not have even been short listed. Gatland (Tour Manager) being a New Zealander must be selecting him based on him being a fellow NZ-er.
I’m also disappointed because the squad selection has not been very brave. Historically the squad contained a new comer or two to international rugby who was given the chance to shine. There’s none of that with this squad. I would love to have seen Christian Wade given a run out and I’m sure there are possibilities in the other home nations.
I’m not going to go through the rest of the players because I don’t actually see them play that much however a lot of the talk is about how our forwards will dominate. Well I’ve watched a lot of Super 15 rugby this year and the Aussie packs and front rows in particular have been doing pretty well against the best NZ and SA can throw at them. I’m not expecting the Aussie front row to fold they way they have in recent years and they have a pretty decent back row.
At half back they could well have the edge with Genia and Cooper (not in the squad at the moment but I’m sure he will be) getting back into form.
I think the Lions strength with be in the backs because the Lions have the ability to put a gigantic back line together but and it’s a big but, the Aussies tackle really well.
One final thought. A lot of the experts pick teams containing a very large proportion of Welshman. Well Wales have become experts at losing to the Aussies over the last year or two losing to them 6 times in 2011 and 2012, a time when Aussie rugby was at a very low ebb. In the last year the Aussies have got stronger, a lot stronger. I’m not convinced the Welsh have got better.
I would love the Lions to win and win handsomely but I think they will lose. In part because the Aussies are stronger than many on these shores give them credit for, in part because we are not as good as we think we are and in part because of some flawed selections.