Combined Country XV v Lions: Lions player ratings

15: Sean Maitland: 8
Pace, power and good hands – one charged down kick aside, it was regulation stuff from Maitland as he enjoyed the wide open spaces and time on the ball that was allowed to him. Some nice touches left him with three assists.

14. Alex Cuthbert: 8
Did everything we know he is good at – ran fast and hard, bagging a try and actually showing a nice little offload to send Conor Murray in under the posts in the first half. With Bowe now out, looks the likely starter opposite George North.

13. Brian O’Driscoll: 9
Why was he still on the pitch at the end? Lions fans everywhere were tearing their hair out, as BOD continued to stretch for every ball – this is simply the way he plays, but an injury in those final 10 minutes would have been catastrophic. Superb running lines and well timed support play are his hallmarks, and along with some beautiful hands it was all on show here. His fade and grubber for Davies’ 82nd minute try was mesmerising. Only question now is who will play inside him.

12. Jamie Roberts: 6.5
A quiet game from Roberts, who as we know always ups his game against the bigger opposition. Cut a couple of nice lines but was generally anonymous, and only averaged three metres a carry. Partnership with BOD will need time to get back to 2009 levels.

11. George North: 8
More great stuff from North in the 40 mins he enjoyed on the pitch. With 102 metres made he was second only to Maitland (166) in the ground gained stats, despite only being on for half the match. One of the Lions’ most dangerous weapons, who should now be shielded until the tests.

10. Stuart Hogg: 8.5
Any lingering doubts as to whether he could manage the responsibility of playing 10 were dispelled early on as he fizzed passes out and glided through a gaping hole to score the Lions’ third try. A mature, precision performance from a man who looks likely to feature somewhere in the tests, if only from the bench.

9. Conor Murray: 7.5
Solid stuff again from Murray who was in the right place at the right time to score his try, and whose service was largely improved. If there can be one criticism of him, it is that he is occasionally a bit slow to get to the breakdown and get the ball away.

1. Alex Corbisiero: 7
The gentlest of introductions to the Lions for Corbisiero, in a pack that utterly destroyed their counterparts in the scrum. Some credit for that goes to him, of course, and he also carried well on a couple of occasions.

2. Richard Hibbard: 5.5
Not the performance Hibbard would have been hoping for, as despite scoring a try the line-out wobbled noticeably. Cannot be blamed entirely for that, however, as the lack of POC or Parling was obviously an issue, but he was still guilty of some poor throws.

3. Dan Cole: 6.5
Like Corbisiero, enjoyed the easiest of run-outs as the Lions scrum tore into their opposition. Not the examination he needed if he is to have any chance of propelling himself ahead of Adam Jones.

4. Richie Gray: 7
Taken off after 40 mins, there was enough to suggest that Gray is starting to find a bit of form, at least. Not setting the world alight by any stretch of the imagination, but was an improvement on performances so far.

5. Ian Evans: 5
Looked sluggish, was driven backwards in the tackle, knocked the ball on and missed a couple of tackles. Not his finest hour and is now unlikely to be contesting for a test place.

6. Sean O’Brien: 8
20 carries points to a mountain of work for the big Irish back row forward, but at times he didn’t make the ground perhaps expected of him. Nevertheless, it was a dynamic and combative performance, and enough to further Gatland’s selection headache here.

7. Justin Tipuric: 8
Popped up here and there to play the link-man role once again, something he is becoming increasingly good at. Made all his tackles and snaffled a couple of turnovers – could not have done much more, and once again the pressure ramps up on Warburton.

8. Jamie Heaslip: 7
Not nearly as obvious as against the Western Force, Heaslip was reduced to the fringes here as the backs took centre stage. Solid if unspectacular, he did nothing to propel himself clear of Faletau in the test stakes, nor did he set himself back. One of the toughest calls for Gatland to make.


Leigh Halfpenny (7) had a bit of a mixed half, scoring a beautifully finished try while also dropping a clanger at the back – almost as unlike him as the conversion he missed! Alun-Wyn Jones (6) did nothing of any real note, while the majority of the subs failed to up the ante when they came on. Jonathan Davies (7) showed some deft touches and thoroughly deserved his try. It was always going to be tough to shine in a game that was already comfortably won.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

20 thoughts on “Combined Country XV v Lions: Lions player ratings

  1. Most ratings fair but well out on Ian Evans deserved a 7.5 / 8 about the park and linking well .

      1. Evans played against the force? ;)

        Agree, he was much better this week. He ran the lineout, and stole some.
        Added some good physicity at the breakdown.

        Throwing of the hookers won’t have helped him.

  2. I would have Maitland over Cuthbert every day of the week, and I’ve have Zebo over those two.

    Cutherbert, no matter how well he can play against weak opposition, got exposed defensively against the Reds and I can see the Aussies targeting him if he plays. I said during the 6N that he was no better defensively than Ashton, and he is proving me right.

    Preferably Kearney will come back into the side and play well, and we can move Halfpenny to the wing.

    I haven’t mentioned North here because obviously the 11 shirt is his.

  3. Not too much to be learned from a game like this.

    Looking forward to the Waratahs game. We should have a much clearer idea of the test side after that

    It will be interesting to see who Gatland picks for that game – if Warburton is going to be picked for the tests then he needs to play against the Waratahs and to have a stormer.

    Who would people pick bearing in mind the need for some players to get more game time and considering the risk of injuries?

  4. Just been thinking about BOD. Will we see him again before the first test now? I’m not sure we will. He surely can’t play at the weekend after today, and he can’t play next midweek game as it is a few days before the first test. Obviously I’m assuming here that he will play.

    I would think that something close to the Test team will be picked vs the Tahs so I’m looking forward to that announcement.

    I would go (for the Tahs, not the Test necessarily):
    Grant (needs a start)
    Parling (like this lock pairing as potential for test)
    Sexton (want to see him and Youngs play together, could go really well)
    Halfpenny (want a look at him on the wing)

    That would be my test backline, dependant on how Kearney goes, but he needs game time. If not good then Halfpenny to FB and play Maitland for the test. Youngs vs Phillips is also undecided for me but I want to see how those half backs go together. Big ask for BOD to play again as well but I want to see him play with Tuilagi again before the first test ( as I’d go with them two.)

  5. I completely agree with you about Zebo. I was surprised when he wasn’t selected in the first place. But Zebo on the wing with Maitland or Hogg as cover sounds strong. Maitland can cover wing or full back, and Hogg can cover full back (Halfpenny going to wing) or fly half if required. No need for Cuthbert to be in the test squad, but I suspect he will be anyway.

    1. I would be surprised to see Cuthbert in the test squad, he just isn’t good enough.

      All this Gatland picking his boys stuff, I just don’t see it! Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I honestly believe he will pick the best side. It should be on form this tour. Therefore Lydiate, Evans and Cuthbert for me don’t get near the test side.

      The only person that has a bit of room to move is Warburton, because Gatland has made him captain, not because he is Welsh. But even then, you are debating between two Welshman so you’d struggle to argue that Warburton over Tipuric is a Welsh thing.

  6. I am getting distinctly worried about with northern hemisphere’s lack of killer instinct, today we should have put 80 or 90 points on this team based on our first half performance and the half time score. instead we floundered and England and France decided to do the same in their respective matches (flounder that is, not fail to win by 90 points) I don’t know if its a fitness thing, a mental toughness thing or just a desire to dominate that we are lacking but its not going to help if we are even with Aus at half time, something that we have seen with wales over the last few tests against Aus in particular is that Aus kick on after half time. For some reason, at the moment we are not and it worries me

  7. Cuthbert was brilliant defensively during the six nations, and I think that the fact he’s a big lump and strong in the tackle is one of the best bits about him. Positioning wise, he’s done pretty much everything I’ve seen right, so I’m not sure where your criticisms are coming from.

    I think that Gatland should put out what he thinks is his test team for the game on Saturday. Past lions teams have struggled before going into the first test without having played together as a whole team before. If that’s what Gatland does is yet to be seen, but here’s my stab at the starting test team.

    15 Halfpenny
    14 Cuthbert
    13 O’Driscoll
    12 Roberts (I would like Tuilangi but think they’ll stick with experience)
    11 North
    10 Sexton
    9 Phillips
    1 Vunipola
    2 Youngs
    3 Jones
    4 Wyn-Jones
    5 O’Connell (c)
    6 Croft
    8 Heaslip
    7 Tipuric

    I don’t think Croft or Lydiate have really stuck their hands up for the 6 shirt, but have gone for Croft as I think he’ll be a bit better on the light ground, and Gatland will be wary of choosing too many Welsh. That is part of my reasoning for picking Heaslip over Faeltau and Youngs over Hibbard as well. Although Hibbard’s lineout did go poorly today, and Heaslip is starting to get some good form.

    1. I agree that Gatland will probably choose Roberts over Tuilagi but don’t think he will be counting nationalities, he’ll just put out who he thinks is best

      Re Lydiate. I was not a fan after his last game, opining that he offered nothing more than tackling. But someone elsewhere has pointed out that with all the ball-carriers we have in the pack, its actually quite good to have one player who will just chop down everything in sight. I am kind of agreeing with that

      Disagree about Cuthbert. Didn’t see today but his positioning vs the Reds was poor and he was turned a couple of times by kicks from Cooper

      Balancing the need for combinations to play together + risk of injuries + game time, I would play the below on Sat

      Grant – needs a game
      Cole – don’t think he’ll be too knackered after today and we need to protect Jones



      Philips – needs a game against good opposition

      Sexton – ditto

      Tuilagi – if fit

      Zebo – want to see how he goes
      Maitland – need to protect North

      Kearney – if fit, ha’penny if not

      1. Agree with pretty much all that team, and the reasoning.

        I do think that Adam Jones needs to have a bit more of a runout. Other than the late cameo against the reds, he hasn’t played on tour since the Baa Baas.

        1. Good point, but I really don’t want to see Jones getting injured.

          Not only is he a superb prop but the teams he props for seem to play better – witness Wales and the Lions last time out

    2. Cuthbert was brilliant defensively in the 6Ns? Did you see that try that Zebo scored, when BOD turned Cuthbert inside out…

      Cuthbert’s defensive decision making is often exposed, as he makes the wrong call. He then usually becomes hesitant, and that puts doubt in his mind and he becomes a further liability in terms of his positioning.

      Kicking wise he is also one of the weaker wingers in the squad. From a wingers point of view, kicking is a big part of defensive play.

      Sure, being a big lump is great, but if he gets turned inside out, then he won’t be able to touch the people…

  8. Generally fair bar a couple ….

    Harsh on Evans, 8 lineout takes plus a steal. Don’t think he was superb but a good solid 7 seems fairer.

    Thought Roberts was very poor (a 5), turned the ball over 4 times and a 5th turnover from a penalty at the breakdown after taking it into contact. With all his talk of the 2009 partnership and being 4 years 40/50 caps more experienced he went out and played like the test shirt was already his and he didn’t need to bother. Did not follow his captain’s example (who played his heart out) and was a less effective partnership than Tuilagi & BOD. The worst performance by a centre this tour.

    Don’t think we should get too excited by Hogg @ 10. He had a very good game and proved he’s plenty good enough to play FH against this level of opposition. But too much of a risk to be the bench cover in a test match. I’ll use Charlie Hodgson as an example, superb at club level but speed up the defensive line to international level and he struggles. Although it seems a tempting option and frees up another bench spot for an impact player I don’t think we can extrapolate that being good against some part timers that assembled 2 days before the game makes you a test FH.

    In general I fear Gatland is outsmarting himself by not having the test XV play together before the first test. At the very least hope we see something along the lines of the test pack play at the weekend to sort out the lineout and driving game. We could have worked towards playing a likely test XV this Sat and then focussed on playing a simple game and not emptying the play book.

    1. Agree with your comments about Hogg. He isn’t going to be a 2nd choice test 10 for the lions in a weeks time.

      However, there was definitely potential there. With 10 being a problem position for Scotland, it could well be a true possibility that we will see Hogg play 10 for Scotland in the future.

      After all, he has a good kick and pass, and his pace makes him a constant runnin threat.

      There is potential, but at this stage, it is only potential. Lets not get too ahead of ourselves

  9. Ratings generally hit the mark, except Evans deserved far more for me (and in most other reputable commentators’ ratings too) – he was a bit anonymous last time out but was the real go-to man today in the lineout and also put himself about in the loose.

    Corbisiero was impressive in the scrum as usual (although he does tend to go outside his opposite tighthead, try and stand him up and does not always scrummage straight BUT he seems to get away with it). Vunipola has been very impressive, but there are still some scrummaging concerns with him and his value could be most felt as an impact sub. But Corbisiero will need more game time to oust him. Grant and Stevens will be midweek players. I think Youngs has more dynamism than Hibbard and Best’s throwing seems to have deserted him. Jones is the best bet at tighthead but needs to show it in another run out, although Cole would not be a bad alternative if required. When really analysed, Gray has probably flattered to deceive a bit and Wyn Jones hasn’t really stuck his hand up yet either. POC and either Parling or Evans for me at lock – a bit of snarl, combined with strong technical ability. None of the locks is a great issue though and all could do a decent job. In the back row Croft is the most complete, athletic forward we have but still needs to show a bit more. Heaslip just ahead of Faletau at 8 but balance is important and Croft and Heaslip together might not be considered the optimum combination, as Faletau offers a bit more honest grunt. I still wish Morgan was on the tour, even just as a different bench option – he was awesome v Argentina on Sat and really is a lump (in a good way). O’Brien and Tipuric have really made a mark, the former as a ball carrier and the latter as a link man, so Warburton needs a big one on Sat. Tricky decision for Gats that. Lydiate will miss out.

    Phillips and Sexton at half-back are shoe-ins, and although Murray fits the Phillips mould, Youngs offers something different to bring on (with Farrell). Roberts and BOD likely to be the centre pairing although Roberts was disappointing today. Davies will be unlucky. North a cert; I have defensive concerns about Cuthbert, and although Maitland played very well today, I think Cuthbert will be the pick for the big one and simply fits better into Gatland’s template. Halfpenny will be in for his kicking and has been assisted by Kearney’s absence, but i’d like to see more of the former in running play. Somehow I think that Maitland, Hogg, Kearney, Bowe, Davies and Tuilagi could all still have a role to play come the 2nd and 3rd tests.

    Still all to play for and I don’t think we’ll see the 1st Test side until the day, which is a bit unusual but i’m not as concerned as S Quinnell seemed to be all of a sudden on the coverage today. Slightly concerned we’re in a bit of a calm before the storm, facing relatively weak sides, but then the Wallabies might be even more undercooked as a result too. One thing is for sure, we need to feast ourselves while we can – this is nothing like playing a series in NZ or SA – there just isn’t the oppressive attention on the rugby and the camp and certainly not the level of provincial game we’d get in NZ. This is the best chance of a series win we have for a while…..we just need to keep honest, quiet, shun any attention, really test each other in training and not get too confident……………

  10. Some interesting comments here and I still cannot see a definite starting 15. From what has been seen so far I would be expecting the following line up for the 1st test.
    15. Halfpenny
    14. ????????
    13. BOD. (would prefer to see Tulagi)
    12. Roberts. (would prefer to see Davies)
    11. North.
    10. Sexton (after yesterday Hogg on the bench not Farrell)
    9. Phillips
    1 Vunipola
    2 Hibbard
    3 Jones
    4 Parling
    5 O’Connell
    6 O’Brien (his best position)
    8 Heaslip
    7 Warbuton

    1. Hogg did well at 10, and there is definite potential for him to be developed as a 10.

      However, he played against a bunch of fringe super rugby players and a couple of semi-pros. These guys were NOT of the calibre of the reds, let alone the wallabies. Stuart Hogg should not going to be coming on at 10 in one of the tests, as that would be suicide.

      It’s one thing playing 10 against some semi-pros when you have a team full of internationals, it’s another playing against a test team.

      Farrell will bench for Sexton.

Comments are closed.