British and Irish Lions team to play NSW Waratahs


Warren Gatland has named his team to play the Waratahs in Sydney this weekend.

What sort of insight does this give us into Gatland’s likely Text XV?

Lions team:
Leigh Halfpenny
Sean Maitland
Jonathan Davies
Jamie Roberts
Simon Zebo
Jonathan Sexton
Mike Phillips

Mako Vunipola
Tom Youngs
Adam Jones
Alun Wyn Jones
Paul O’Connell
Tom Croft
Sam Warburton (capt)
Jamie Heaslip

Richard Hibbard, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Rob Kearney.

40 thoughts on “British and Irish Lions team to play NSW Waratahs

  1. Can’t read much into the centre pairing as they are the only two left, and Zebo needs a game, but apart from that this would be many people’s starting team. Not mine.

  2. It might have been Gatland’s original intention to make this close to the test team but injuries have made that impossible. At least six of those selected (Maitland,Zebo,Davies,Youngs,AWJ,Croft) are unlikely test starters IMO

    1. interesting to put croft in as unlikely, given his lineout ability, and the fact that the lions have been throwing to the tail a lot.

      i would agree that the rest do seem unlikely (although i would like zebo over cuthbert) but to me, croft is in with as much a shout as anyone else.

      it all depends on the rest of the backrow, but on current form, the only person who i think would truly warrant the 6 shirt over croft is SOB. Lydiate hasnt done enough yet, imo.

  3. Real shame we’re not going to get to see Youngs and Sexton playing a decent chunk of the game together. Think that has the potential to be a great partnership, but it seems that Gatland has consigned Youngs to bench duty. I’d expect Murray to start against the Brumbies, with Youngs on the bench again, then Phillips to come back in for the first test.

    Tuilagi’s injury is obviously a bit more serious than first thought. If he’s fit by Tuesday will they give him some game time, or will they rest him for the test? He hasn’t played much so far.

  4. I think Gatland has been very clever with this squad, clearly a lot of test starters in the line up, but also a few players that he’s given the chance to work there way in. The likes of Roberts and Warburton, who many expected to be nailed on starters, are currently battling hard for their place. Also the likes of Maitland and Youngs, who have played well so far, but maybe need one more performance to get a test spot.

    Would love to see Zebo impress.

  5. Probably starting pack for next week then? That would be my guess.

    BOD getting wrapped up until the first test, and North as well. Other than that maybe starting choice back line too.

    I actually think that will be the test match bench, other than maybe SOB over Lydiate on the bench, and probably Hogg over Kearney.

  6. Hope B.Youngs does get a decent amount of game time with Sexton, I would switch them at half time. We seem to be looking at every permutation and combination in the second row, front row, back row and centres and with the only real options of Sexton + Philips or Sexton + Youngs it seems a little odd not to try both.

    Very interested to see how this tight 5 goes, I think Gatland will still be having nightmares over his decision to select Mears for the first test in 09 and will want to go for the bigger unit of Hibbard. However T.Youngs is the only hooker that has played a good game this tour (in all facets) with neither prop being tall it may work well as a scrummaging unit. Before the tour I had AWJ and POC as my test pairing, AWJ hasn’t done a lot thus far, but his competitors haven’t been outstanding either so he has the chance to jump to the top of the pile. Collectively I hope they set up plenty of driving mauls and get that well drilled.

    Back row combination worries me. If Heaslip and Croft are patrolling the wider channels the fringe defence could be found wanting again (as against the Farce) and Warburton has to be a one man breakdown. If the T.Youngs/Croft Tigers axis fires at the lineout it may make Croft a necessity, rather than luxury, in the test back row (wish Wood was on tour!)

    Although potentially an injury/availability induced selection, I’m pleased Roberts has been sent out again. I would like to see him put down a big marker and show how much he wants that test shirt.

  7. Astonishing really, lurking deep inside me, I secretly want the Lions to lose, why? to teach that Idiot Gatland a lesson, and these are the reasons why;
    Players that he should have taken at 1st selection;
    Visser not Cuthbert – outstanding finisher
    Madigan – The future of Irish rugby, would have been great to blood him, leave out Farrell simply not the ticket, only there coz of daddy…
    Kelly Brown – the top tackler and turn-overs won in the 6 nations and Heineken Cup
    Nathan Hines – Another european success story this year, consistently at the heart of the premier clubs of europe’s boiler houses (neither AWJ or Evans)
    Ryan Grant & Mike Ross should have been 1st choice, both Vunipola & Stevens were embarrassed at the end of last year’s premiership by the Saints and Toulon props… Sadly Gethin is no longer the powerhouse he once was, which is why he doesn’t get a start at Toulon..
    My Starting test XV, barring injuries; Halfpenny, North, BOD, Roberts, Maitland, Sexton, Philips, Jones, Best, Cole, O’Connell, Gray, Tupiric, Heaslip, SOB

    How do you like them apples?

    1. So what you’re saying then is really he should have taken more of the Scottish team and throw Madigan in there to avoid it looking like purely Scottish bias?

    2. The fact that you are playing two tight heads and Best in the front row is just hilarious.

      But seriously, other than that it is probably close to what Gatland will pick.

      On selection, Hines was unavailable as he assumed he would be playing in the Top 14 final. As well as Brown played, I can’t see what back row player would have been left out for him, it is just a competitive area. And Madigan was third chouce (behind Jackson) in the 6N for Ireland, whereas Farrell was first choice for a second place England side. Hardly just because of daddy.

      Vunipola has more than justified his selection on this tour so I am unsure why you’re questioning him.

      Matt Stevens… well yeh we were all surprised at that but there we go!

      1. The problem Farrel has is that although he was a good shout for 2nd best FH in the 6Ns (and hence B&I) it still doesn’t make him the great FH option we want to see in the Lions. Biggar was arguably on his level in the last few matches but again, who would put Biggar in a Lions shirt? So for me Farrel deserves his place as 2nd best FH, it’s not a daddy’s boy selection, but it does show that in the B&I we have pretty crap FHs at the moment compared to options outside B&I.

        For some of us we still laugh at him being selected as one of the best 4 players in the world. This doesn’t help his image outside England as we are mystified by how this happened. Nothing at all to do with Farrel mind, he didn’t ask for it. But every time we see him play we can’t but help wonder who the hell (and when) really and genuinely thought he was one of the best 4 players in the world.

        Also Neil said it himself – Madigan the “future” of Irish rugby. Even if you don’t agree he is the 2nd coming you’ve still got to concede that the Lions don’t want future potential, they want players who can and have done it already or who are 100% certain to blossom.

        1. Agree with you here Brighty in all aspects other than FH being a B&I problem. How many world class 10s are around right now? Carter and Sexton probably?

          More Steyn? not really. The aussies can’t find a 10, the french play Michalak still. It is a difficult one.

          No Farrell isn’t perfect, but he is the second best option we had going into the tour.

          1. I’d add Quade Cooper, Berrick Barnes and even the discarded Matt Giteau. Further I’d say that Aaron Cruden is better than our B&I options.

            Don’t worry, by the next tour Rhys Patchell will be the best FH in the world…

          2. agree with Brighty and Jacob here.

            some good points made by both.

            I really see where you are both coming from in terms of the lack of great FHs in the world.

            there are a few guys who are playing at the top level, that you probably wouldnt call ‘world class’.
            Having said that. a list of guys who would easily walk into the 10 shirt for any of the NH teams (excluding maybe ireland, because i think Sexton is awesome)

            Juan Martin Hernandez (on form)
            Aaron Crude
            Colin Slade
            Beaudan Barrett
            Luke McAllister
            Nick Evans
            Pat Lambie
            Johan Goosen
            Francois Steyn (another who’s form is dependant)

            Also, the Aussies may be struggling to pick a 10, but they do have the players.
            Cooper, Beale, O’Connor, Toomua, Leali’ifano, Barnes are all pretty decent options.

            i think a few of these players are world class, maybe not world class 10’s, but definitely world class players.

            Also, lets not forget that Wilkinson still plays rugby, and had he been free he would have toured.

        2. Can’t reply to your below comment so I’m doing it here.

          But how can you add Cooper if he can’t get in the Aussie squad? He is incredible in attack yes, but world class? Surely to call someone that he has to have more facets to his game, i.e. be able to at least attempt tackling.

          I don’t think Berrick Barnes is there either, and definitely no Gitaeu, both of these guys are 12s. O’Conner is the other Aussie that you may put in there, but I am not convinced he is a 10 really either.

          I honestly don’t know much about Pratchell, but maybe he will be! Burns definitely will be.

          1. I think the Aussies were foolish to leave out Cooper – non tackling 10s work fine if the team is structured around it. Munster/Ireland with O’Gara for example. I’d go further and repeat what I’ve said before – as much as I admire JW he has skewed some people’s perception of what a 10 needs to do. The backrow is there to sort out the 10s channel – 10s are picked, for me, on go forward and tactical control, not tackling ability.

            Patchell disclaimer – he lives on my road and coaches my son. I may be a little biased…

        3. I agree with you about JW to an extent, but Wilkinson was so much more than a tackling 10. If JW was like O’Gara in defence, he still would have been a fantastic fly half.

          But I definitely agree about what a 10 should do, I’d have Cooper in my team all day long.

          1. Oh yeah, don’t mistake my comments for downplaying what else JW brought. If I could have a 10 who went forward like Dan Carter and tackled like Lydiate then I’d go for it.

            I just think that JW got so feted for the big hits that it skewed people’s opinion of both what he could do and what 10s should be able to do.

          2. i get where you are coming from brighty, and i do agree regarding what a 10 can do vs should do.

            but i have to disagree slightly.

            When Michael Jones played openside flanker for the ABs many people said that he “redefined the role of a number 7”. and since him we have had a shift to what we now call a “genuine openside”.
            Similar can be said for Lomu. he showed that you can have monsters on the wing, and now it seems to be the norm.

            I would argue that, from a defensive stand point, wilkinson redefined what a flyhalf should be able to do in the professional age.

            I get your point about backrow covering the 10 channel, but at that level, you cannot have people doing someone else’s job. At school i played with a weak tackling 10, so our 7 was regularly stretched defensively (credit to him though, he got the job done).

            also, most 10’s now-a-days can tackle. maybe not like wilkinson, but they can. guys like cooper though, he needs to be hidden at fullback off first phase ball at club level. that is a hell of a weakness that the wallabies have clearly decided they cannot afford.

    3. Let’s pick through a few of those:
      – How did Visser and Brown get on against Samoa last week? I watched that game and wasn’t thinking “if only these guys were in the Lions squad we would have the series nailed”
      – Madigan may be the future, but the Lions is now. I’m no big O.Farrell fan but behind Sexton there were no other clear test candidates. He was good enough (not brilliant) against the Reds (the toughest opposition of the tour) to suggest he’s worthy of his place. Don’t think A.Farrell had anything to do with it, probably sat the discussion out completely, why would Gatland be in the least bit interested in nepotism?
      – Hines, not available for the tour as committed to domestic action. If a second row gets a knock it will still be a close call between him and Launchbury as to who should come next.
      – Grant made zero impact in the scrum when he came on against some part time props on Tues, so I’m yet to see what all the fuss is about. Vunipola has been the revelation of the tour thus far, an exceptional selection decision from Gatland.
      – Ross, an excellent scrum anchor, but nothing else. Given Cole and Jones are already in the squad I think it was fair enough to look for an impact prop to bring something a little different. On end of season form I think Wilson would have been a better call, if we lose a tighthead I hope he gets picked ahead of Ross.

      I wouldn’t have picked the same 37 players as Gatland, but my opinion counts for jack #$*£. I am however 100% behind the players that are there and I can’t really understand the attitude that wants them to lose to prove that “they were right”.

    4. Although I don’t agree with all that Gats has done, I think that you are somewhat out of tune with rugby opinion. We all want the Lions to win. Simple.

      Cuthbert was one of the top try scorers in the 6N. Not my favourite player but he deserved to be on tour.

      Comments about Farrell and Madigan have been made.

      Back row – Brown, Robshaw, Wood and Morgan all unlucky not to go. Lydiate was lucky, but the rest you can’t argue with.

      Hines plays in France and therefore was ruled out.

      We’re all with you on Stevens but Vunipola has probably been the “find” of the tour so can’t argue with Gats on that one.

  8. I worry about Croft and Warburton being paired – Warbs needs a hard tackling 6 so he can get over the tackle, a 6 who is focused on chopping down anything that comes down the fringes. Croft mucking around on the wings and centres isn’t what Warbs needs.

    I know this isn’t a widely shared opinion but I do not see any need to further test any other SH/FH options as this is the best pairing. Yes, Youngs is v. good, will be an excellent bench option. Small margins.

    The pack looks like a good shout to me – 2nd row options outside POC seem the most contentious. While others were rubbishing Ian Evans performance on Tuesday, Will Greenwood had him down as MOTM – I don’t necessarily agree with Greenwood but it shows the wide range of opinions on what makes a great 2nd row. Yes, I know, before someone points it out, that Greenwood is a back. If you think that rules him out from commenting then please only reply to this debate if you were/are also an international level 2nd row player.

    1. Agree with your comments regards lock. I would probably go for AWJ and POC just for the experience. Maybe Gray, but no-one has really put their hand up. To be honest, if I could I’d pick Launchbury to play alongside POC but there we go.

      Agree with you about SH/FH, and I have no issues with that. Although I prefer Youngs, it is so marginal it doesn’t bother me.

      The front five for this match I am pretty sure what Gatland views as his test match, as well as the bench options in those positions being exactly the same.

      For me its only really the back row and centres that is still open, bar Warburton (although he shouldn’t start he will, and BOD. Sorry and the other wing spot, still wide open but I’m hoping Maitland or Zebo have stormers this weekend.

    2. How do we know it is the best pairing if we haven’t seen Youngs + Sexton? Think it’s conceivable that Sexton may play better outside Youngs and which ever way round it is the other will bring an impact from the bench.

      Philips + Sexton maybe the way to go, but I don’t see the harm at taking a proper look at the only viable alternative.

    3. Agree with the Warbs comments …. think this line up is going to make it very difficult for him to look good.

    4. Don’t think Warbs should be starting so academic really who plays 6 to him, but for me it has to be SoB, who’s had a great tour so far. Tackles, carries, supports. Croft is a bench player for me. Bring him on against tired legs. He’s shown time and again he can run and score, but he also does more work than he is sometimes credited for.

      Still think Evans was lucky to go on tour and to me he still hasn’t justified his place, but then Gray, Parling and AWJ haven’t done much more. Still thought that Launchbury would have been great on the harder grounds, but his form tailed off just at the end of the season and it is all academic as he’s not there!

      Going to be interesting to see who Gats picks and whether he goes on form or preconceived plans.

    5. greenwood has a pretty good rugby brain, so i usually trust his comments, even when they are on 2nd rows… and on top of that, I myself wasnt a international lock brighty, but i was a lock partner of Joe Launchbury, so i have seen a good lock play, i hope that makes me worthy of a comment ;)

      personally i though Evans was very good last time out. he definitely staked a claim. Having said this, i still think that Gray has been pretty good also. i think Gray and POC compliment each other very nicely too.

      interesting comments regarding Warburton. To look at the flip side of it, i dont know if Warbs would be the best 7 for croft either.

      the real question will come with which Gatland wants more. Personally, i think that Tipuric has impressed more than Warburton and would find it very hard to leave Tipuric out. But Sam is the skipper, so i cant really see Gats avoiding him.
      Maybe the best thing to do is pick the 6, then pick the 7 and 8. although, i think if you pick Lydiate at 6, then SOB should be the 7 (ball carrying option).
      I can only really see Warburton being picked if SOB plays 6. this is very strange, and really does beg the question – should someone else have been the captain, so warburton can just focus on himself?

      1. Brighty is right about Warburton. Its no co-incidence that his best performances in the past have come when Lydiate was on top form as well.

        Croft just does not do enough of the work in the tight that a blind-side should. With Heaslip in the back-row as well, Warburton will have to get through a hell of a lot of work on his own

        1. I don’t buy this whole “croft doesn’t do w work a blindside should” debate.

          Personally, I have played across the entire backrow, and I have also played with a variety of different guys in the backrow.

          You can have a more generic style for a certain position, often a more traditional view, which is taken as the template for what a player in that spot SHOULD do.

          The reality is, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is the balance between the backrow.

          The problem with England during the 6Ns was not that Wood was at the base of the scrum, but more that they did not have a ball carrier to fill in for Morgan.

          Ireland have SOB as their primary ball carrier, he plays 7 or 6 mainly.

          The point I am trying to make is, as long as you have a good balance, and all the jobs are getting done, then it doesn’t matter if the players do not fit a traditional template. A player like croft would work very well with someone like wood. But you would require a big ball carrier to get the balance. Robshaw did not provide that for England (not his fault). Equally, Robshaw and wood compliment each other nicely too, but again they must be accompanied by a big carrier.

          The fact is, everyone seems to think that the 6 MUST do all the dirty work, like Richard Hill. However, Hill was actually primarily a 7. He simply played 6 for England to allow for backy to play 7. When the “holy trinity” (back, Dallaglio and hill) was first selected there were criticisms saying that they were 2 7’s and a 6. But these criticisms died down, because they brought a good balance. Dallaglio was the big carrier out wide, Hill the workhorse and backy carried close to rucks or played the link man role.

          Balance is the key, it doesn’t matter which number is on the player’s back, as long as one of the roles is filled.

          1. It’s just a bit more difficult to balance a backrow with him in. He doesn’t get his hands on the ball that often and doesn’t often pass when he does so he’s not a big carrier or a link man. You need a 7 & 8 with huge work rate to balance it (Crane + Salvi, or Warburton + Faletau). Once you’ve got a balance then you have an asset (world class quality of lineout ball, great pace for cover tackles and the busts down the wing). Without the balance you’ve got England in Cardiff getting mullered at the breakdown with Robshaw also hanging back from the defensive line to make ponderous kick returns.

          2. Matt has got it entirely right there. My point was all about balance, without specifically stating it.

            With Croft in, as Matt says, you need a 7 and an 8 with a massive work rate – and preferably quite physical 7 and 8s as well. For example, I don’t believe Tipuric and Croft would work very well.

            And whilst you are correct in a lot of what you say and about Hill, etc, I still want my flankers to be involved in the tough stuff, whether its 7 or a 6 on their back, and not prancing around on the wing, looking to show their pace.

          3. Matt and Pablito

            I agree with you both. the balance is key, and it is hard to find a 7&8 to balance with croft. they both have to have huge work rates to compensate, as he is not in the mould of a “workhorse 6” (i should state here that they are my preferred 6, hence why i choose wood for england over croft)

            one thing that croft has, which we saw a lot of in the force game, is outstanding support play. he always seems to be on the shoulder of guys like BOD.

            he may not chop people down like lydiate, but he can still tackle, and brings so much more in attack than lydiate.

            the thing is, you need a backrower who will carry out wide. unlike guys like Morgan and Heaslip, Croft has extreme pace, but not as much bulk, so he tries to burn people on the outside. this means he has to go on the wing, because its a lot harder in the middle of the centres.

            Warburton may actually be the best 7 for Croft to play with, as he is physical and gets stuck in. Croft may not be the best for Warburton though. This is why you would probably need to play Faletau with those two.

  9. Think the Test pack is getting a run out to ensure they gel properly, Hibbard has fallen down the order a bit due to some strong performance’s from Youngs. Youngs seems to be one of those players who loves a target: give him someone (Hartley, for example) who is nailed on and he will just drag himself up to the level required. Consistently surprising.

  10. It is easy to say that there are individuals we would rather see in a lineup than those picked. What has to be taken into account is the gameplan Gatland will have his and it will probably feature how Wales play so he’s probably looking to create the best Welsh team from the 4 nations. Look at it from that angle and you’ll probably get your test aide

  11. Interesting comments re: 2nd Row. I actually think that this may be our strongest area in the whole squad. I can’t see a combination which i don’t like, so becomes somewhat academic for me, although think the AWJ & POC is a good shout, with Parling from the bench.

    Hope Maitland puts his hand up over Cuthbert, who is a liability defensively and he can barely pass the ball, feel his deficiencies are hidden well by both Wales and Lions.

    Maybe we will get 36 at 12 against the Brumbies? With Manu outside if he’s fit? Then perhaps Hogg again at 10 and Kearney at FB (not sure whether you’d want to start the test bench 10 4 days before the test? against arguably tours toughest opposition…)

  12. glad to see hogg touted at 10 passses well ,gets the backs moving ,good speed from standing -place kicks goodish – gifted player.
    front five for the test,Heaslip at 8 ,tipuric and oBrien.half backs for test
    north roberts bod zebo -poc to captain

  13. Dave Dennis and Rob Horne have been released by the wallabies to play for the Tahs. Similarly, Peter Kimlin and Scott Sio for the Brumbies.

    This could suggest that we wont be seeing them in the 23 man squad.
    Kimlin and Dennis’ release could suggest that the 6 shirt is going to one of probably 3 players. Ben Mowen, Liam Gill or Hugh McMeniman.

    I am reckoning we will see an Aussie team a bit like this:
    Robinson, Moore, Alexander
    Horwill, Douglas
    Mowen, Hooper, Palu
    Ioani (is he fit?) Cummins if not.
    Barnes or Leali’ifano – although Deans does like McCabe as a defensive force.
    Folau (from what i saw of a squad list, he seemed down as a wing…)

    S. Faingaa
    McMeniman or Simmons (i’d plump for McMeniman’s versatility)
    Gill or McCalman – pretty sure i would go for Gill
    Phipps – Burgess is in there at the moment, but only as cover, so would stuggle to pick him

    the last two spots 22 & 23 really depend on who isnt in the starting team.
    I will assume that McCabe gets the nod at 12 (to deal with Roberts or Manu)
    I think i read that Tomane is injured, which means if Ioani is too, then there is a pretty easy choice. Barnes and Leali’ifano both get spots, as Cummins will start on the wing. If Ioani is fine, then the honeybadger drops to the bench, and i would probably keep barnes (very experienced)

  14. Vunipola
    T youngs
    A jones
    Aw jones
    J Davies

    Any reviews on my 1st test team?

    1. I would definitely have Tuilagi and BOD in (if fit) in place of Roberts and Davies. Australia know all about that pairing together, and will not be worried about facing them. I would also have Halfpenny instead of Hogg, and Maitland or Zebo instead of Cuthbert. I would have Hogg on the bench though, as he could cover several positions.

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