Wayne Smith, Brendon Ratcliffe, Mark Reason, Paul Rees, JG and RR pick a squad to beat Australia:
We start with the captain, or in our case two captains. The power of two was good enough last season for the Chiefs to win the Super 15, when Craig Clark and Liam Messam were made co-captains. So we feel there is a compelling case for the Lions to break new ground.
Wayne Smith says, “I would make Sam Warburton and Chris Robshaw co-captains of the Lions squad. They are both team builders, they both have a lot of respect from the players they have captained, and they are both resilient.
“Given that they play in the same position, I see no point in de-motivating either of them at this stage. Make them both captain, make them both compete for the place in the first test. But whoever misses out should know what an important job he still has to do. The togetherness of the midweek team is vital to the Lions success and the captain of that team can be a big part of it.
“Warburton’s form was sensational in the World Cup, even if he has been up and down since. Robshaw has shown great ability in building young teams with Harlequins and England. Warburton and Robshaw – it’s a win, win situation.”
The Rugby Site Lions Squad
Leigh Halfpenny, Rob Kearney, Stuart Hogg
A unanimous choice and Halfpenny and Hogg give the squad versatility at wing or centre.
Tommy Bowe, George North, Alex Cuthbert, Simon Zebo
All agreed on Tommy Bowe and the other three each took a significant majority of the vote. Wayne liked Chris Ashton because of previous success against Australia and the ‘Scottish’ wings also picked up votes, although Warren Gatland has a bit of history with Maitland.
Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Davies, Billy Twelvetrees
A unanimous vote for the first four on the list, while Wayne, Mark and RR wanted to add Twelvetrees for a bit of x-factor and emergency cover at 10 where he has played a fair bit of rugby in the past.
Jonny Sexton, Owen Farrell
All agreed on Sexton and Farrell. RR wanted Wilkinson, but he was rejected by Wayne because of his attacking limitations these days. Wayne wanted Flood as a third 10, but Mark nearly passed out at the thought of the crab pushing his centres into touch. After all what does the ex All Black number 10 Smith know about fly-half play. He even calls it by a funny number – first five-eighth or something.
Mike Phillips, Conor Murray, Ben Youngs
All voted for Phillips and both Murray and Youngs received a sizeable majority. JG liked Laidlaw because of his ability to cover 10 and Paul liked Care because of the pace he can add, but any one of the three we have selected could start the first test. Phillips is in form and Murray and Youngs have played well against Australia previously.
Adam Jones, Dan Cole, Gethin Jenkins, Andrew Sheridan, Cian Healy
Brendan liked Euan Murray and with no Sunday matches he was close to our squad. Mako Vunipola and Alex Corbisiero also received some support, but there was much agreement over the final five. Wayne, Brendon and Mark pushed Sheridan into the squad. JG points out that Sheridan is resigned to not touring, but Sheridan is keeping Jenkins out of the Toulon team, and as both Wayne and Brendon said, “The Aussies are terrified of him.”
Rory Best, Richard Hibbard, Tom Youngs
A unanimous vote and each will fancy his chances of starting the first test, although Youngs will need to curb his tendency to concede penalties.
Paul O’Connell, Alun-Wyn Jones, Richie Gray, Geoff Parling
O’Connell swept the vote. JG and Paul preferred Ian Evans to Gray, and the Welshman is unlucky to lose out, but as Wayne said, “Gray is so mobile, big, effective, good in the air.” And he was a significant part of the last British or Ireland victory in Australia when Scotland won in a downpour last year.
Sam Warburton, Chris Robshaw, Tom Croft, Tom Wood, Justin Tipuric, Sean O’Brien
We do not like leaving out Dan Lydiate, who Gatland regards as freakishly strong, but we are spoiled for choice. Wood was outstanding in the Six Nations and can cover 8. Croft can cover lock and was big on the previous Lions tour. Tipuric would be in RR’s test team. We want Warburton and Robshaw as captains, although JG has doubts over Robshaw after defeats in the Grand Slam decider and Heineken quarter-final. And O’Brien is in, because as Wayne says, “He killed Australia in the World Cup by holding them up in the tackle.”
Toby Faletau, Jamie Heaslip
Faletau was unanimous, but Heaslip can count himself fortunate to slip in ahead of Ben Morgan, who was preferred by Paul and Mark as the sort of ball carrier who would get the Lions over the gain line.
But let us know what you think.