With Lions coach-elect Warren Gatland injured and unable to tour Australia with Wales, he will have ample time to assess the candidates for Lions selection during the June test matches. There appears to be an abundance of riches in some positions but a dearth of talent in others. Gatland will be looking closely at performances at scrum-half, out-half and front row in particular where stand out candidates are lacking.
Performance in 6 Nations and Heineken Cup next season will clearly drive the selection process but a number of seasoned campaigners are likely to be included regardless of form in order to secure their experience for the tour. Much will happen between now and the first tour match against the Western Force on June 5th next year but it is a useful exercise to select a possible Lions Test team based on current form and with a few assumptions.
The honour of captaining a Lions team ensures the chosen player membership of an elite group of 27 who have captained the Lions since the inaugural tour of South Africa in 1891. At this stage Sam Warburton is the stand out candidate for 2013. On recent form he is assured of a starting position, has proven himself as an effective leader and he handles the media and public responsibilities with an assurance which defy his relative youth. Warburton has been unfortunate with injury and it will be hoped that he has a better run next year.
For the purposes of this exercise I have selected my Test team with the closest competitor bracketed alongside.
15. Rob Kearney (Leigh Halfpenny)
14. Tommy Bowe (Chris Ashton)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Jonathan Davies)
12. Jamie Roberts (Manu Tuilagi)
11. George North (Alex Cuthbert)
10. Jonathan Sexton (Owen Farrell)
9. Mike Phillips (Conor Murray)
8. Ben Morgan (Toby Faletau)
7. Sam Warburton (Ross Rennie)
6. Dan Lydiate (Sean O’Brien)
5. Paul O’Connell (Alun Wynne-Jones)
4. Richie Gray (Luke Charteris)
3. Dan Cole (Mike Ross)
2. Rory Best (Ross Ford)
1. Gethin Jenkins (Cian Healy)
I would welcome comment on the above selection and invite readers to select their own Lions Test team and submit it to The Rugby Site.