Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhys Priestland, Conor Murray, Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Paul O’Connell, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt), Ben Morgan
It was not the greatest Six Nations in history, but it did turn up a decent Lions team to go to Australia next year. It also revealed that Britain and Ireland has great strength in certain positions and a dearth of talent in other areas.
How do you choose between Dan Lydiate and Tom Croft for example? Lydiate is a brilliant tackler who sets up a huge number of opportunities to turn over ball, wheareas Croft is a superb lineout forward and an unbelievably quick ball carrier.
Who do you take as full back? I have chosen Leigh Halfpenny because if Priestland starts at 10, then the team needs goalkicking cover. But Rob Kearney was quite brilliant under the high ball for Ireland and stood out on the previous Lions tour. Yes, but that was in South Africa and Australia don’t tend to kick as many high balls on the full back.
On the other hand some of the midfield play in the Six Nations was abominable. Scotland do not have one and Ireland look third rate without O’Driscoll. England and Wales can defend and bash, but there is not much in the way of creativity. But we do know from South Africa that Roberts and O’Driscoll can be brilliant together, so why change?
Scrum-half is a bit of a worry, but Mike Phillips and Conor Murray are ahead of the rest. Phillips just looks as if he might be slowing down a touch and I wonder if he will be over the top by next summer.
It makes some sense to pick a front row unit as England and Wales significantly better than Ireland and Scotland, but it may just as well be Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones who take to the field in Australia. I just feel that England’s trio has the capacity to destroy Australia’s traditional area of weakness, whereas Wales’s is better around the park.
Ireland’s scrummage collapse against England showed how much they miss O’Connell’s grunt in the second row and it is an area Gray will need to improve on if he is to make the Lions team. Warburton remains the leading number seven, an area of weakness for the other countries, but there is undoubted strength in depth at number eight and two men will be very unlucky not to make the trip.