The big winner in the first round of the Six Nations was Wales. Warren Gatland put one over on Declan Kidney who will be hard pushed to lead the Lions if Ireland again lose to Wales in Cardiff next year.
Rhys Priestland, even when not at his best, looks easily the best number 10 around. By attacking the line with such timing and strength, he opened up the options for those outside him. In contrast Jonathan Sexton did not make a run in the whole game.
The way that Priestland made Wales’s early try was also a sign of a high quality player. He saw very early exactly how he was going to exploit the situation. He attacked a slight gap, knowing that it would draw two players, and was preparing the wrap around pass almost before he got there. Class.
Sam Warburton also looks favourite to lead the team even if he went off at halftime. Paul O’Connell’s decision to kick for goal from halfway was catastrophic. Ireland led by 6, they were on the rampage against 14 men and they could have pinned Wales, used up the clock, and driven the life out of them. Instead O’Connell gave Wales an outlet valve.
It has to be Warburton because Brian O’Driscoll is taking time out, the Scotland captain seems to change week by week and England currently has a man on standby. And so…
The Lions, February, 2012
Coach: Warren Gatland (although I am opposed on grounds of nationality)
Team: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Brad Barritt, Jamie Roberts, Max Evans, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips (pushed hard by Conor Murray), Alex Corbisiero, Rory Best, Adam Jones, Richie Gray, Paul O’Connell, Tom Croft, Sam Warburton (capt), Jamie Heaslip (pushed hard by David Denton)