Initial reaction to Lions Squad announcement

The announcement of the 2013 Lions Squad had a monumental build up, not just this morning, but all season – and now that we know the 37 names that will start the tour, how do we feel?

There are some notable omissions in the shape of Rory Best, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and Mike Ross, but the makeup of the squad – particularly at fly-half and centre – raises a few question marks for me.

Only two fly-halves have been selected, in the shape of Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell – that in itself is not unexpected, but the lack of versatile cover elsewhere is surprising.

James Hook, Greig Laidlaw or even Billy Twelvetrees would have provided some fly-half cover, but it looks as though Sexton and Farrell will now need to be involved in every fixture and if one of them gets injured, Gatland will be calling someone else out to slot into the Test squad – even though he said he wanted everyone to be together from the start. Matt Stevens’ selection in the front row is presumably on the back of his versatility on both sides of the scrum, but the same strategy clearly hasn’t been applied in the backs.

There is also only one recognised inside centre, with Brian O’Driscoll, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Davies all playing most of their rugby at 13 – Gatland must be looking at BOD as cover at 12, and almost handing Roberts the Test jersey.

The balance of the squad gives us an insight into how Gatland will take on Australia – route one, apparently. In some of the key 50/50 decisions such as Hartley over Best, or Murray over Laidlaw, the bigger, heavier man has got the nod, and there are some big units throughout the backline without too much guile.

I genuinely think I’ve spent as much time this season poring over selection as Gatland and there are one or two disappointing decisions, but there will always be disagreements over Lions selection and that’s why we love it.

In general though, a glance at the names shows strength in every position and enough quality to give the Wallabies a bloody good game – we’ll get behind ‘Our Lions’ as they represent a united Britain and Ireland, and be with them every step of the way.

What are your thoughts on selection?

By @Hutch_James

69 thoughts on “Initial reaction to Lions Squad announcement

  1. Some surprises lets put all our differences to one side and get behind our Lions and give the Aussies a thrashing.

  2. Don’t know what to say, delighted for Conor Murray and Tommy Bowe, but am shocked that Rory Best isn’t in squad. Also, Sam W may be a great player but can’t help remembering his refusal to captain HIS OWN COUNTRY in last game of 6 Nations.

    1. Joanne, I don’t think that too much should be read into that. From memory, I think he declined it rather than refused, and let’s be clear that he was coming back from injury and a loss of form, for a one-off winner takes all game, so it is a very different case.

  3. wilko just isnt the style of attacking 10 that sexto is. theres no real need for him and i think he knows that. u could argue about picking flood ahead of farell. both halfpenny and hogg offer more than enough cover at 10 if needed. its in gatlands interest to give wales the nod on any 50:50. cant blame him so no best and no robshaw. i dont agree with the convention of lions selection. there seems to be a tradition of selection based on the 6 nations but id prefer selection based more on recent SH test performance and european cup performance. it is a very solid team nevertheless. plenty of firepower there. good luck to them!

  4. relatively happy with the squad.

    i think that wood , kelly brown and robshaw should be feeling pretty annoyed. to have not really put a foot wrong, and yet still been leapfrogged by both croft and lydiate must be frustrating.

    as long as lydiate can show his 2011 form, and croft doesnt hang around on the wing, then i cant complain with the selections.

    hartley and youngs getting the nod over best probably has something to do with wig, same can probably be said for mako and stevens.

    over all i think that the biggest surprises are hartley and stevens, all other players seemed to have a pretty heavy backing from people.

    Gray is another interesting one. i think there are a number of locks who have been performing better than him, but i think that he has got himself a ticket due to the potential to be outstanding that he has shown.

    on a final note. i will be interested to see how warburton fairs as captain, this surely means that tipuric has been consigned to the midweek 7 shirt or reserve test shirt at best?

  5. The squad is pretty mush as expected. I think the strongest players in each position have benn selected. I don’t think any player that has been left home can even remotely claim to be the best in his position.

    Selection of Dan Lydiate is crucial. On the road to recovery from injury, he is very “fresh” and will bring to the squad a work and tackle ethic that surpasses any other!

    So glad Wilkinson was left home. With such an attacking back line, a flyhalf that can only kick behind a dominant pack would have been a travesty.

  6. Lions selection is immense and all those who have gone before say it is an overwhelming expierence. Therefore why would u pick a guy on his first trip as captain rather than BOD who has all the expierence and is used to captaining his own country for years

      1. Yeah but in my mind Warbs would be 2nd choice after Tipuric and I’d have BOD in the team ahead of Roberts or Manu. Gatland favours giving the captaincy to the forwards not the backs so that might be why BO’D didn’t get a look in.

        Warbs did captain Wales to the Semis of the RWC and whould’ve/should’ve captained them to the final if not for V Clerc being so light! So I don’t think he’s too out of his depth, I just rate Tipuric higher.

        1. its Clerc’s fault for being so light?

          in that case we are in trouble in Aus! let go on the number i found, Clerc being 90kgs.

          Beale is the same weight as clerc, O’Connor is 2kgs lighter. Cooper is only 2.5 more. barnes is 3kgs lighter and Mogg weighs the same as clerc. iaone is only 3kgs heavier. genia is 5kgs lighter than clerc. Liam Gill is only 94kg and Hooper 97kgs.

          Looks like we could see Sam getting another red card if the aussies lure him in with their low weights!

          In all seriousness, it was a bad tackle, his technique was poor. it did not have anything to do with the weight (or lack there of) of the player being tackled. a player of Sam’s power could lift most men up like that, and its only going to end one way.

          interesting that this tackle has been brought up though. a few people questioning Hartley’s discipline, yet he has never had a red card for his country, and especially not in such a huge game… clearly i am throwing this in to stir the pot a bit, but personally i think we should all forget about “previous incidents” going into this tour, because they are totally irrelevant. similarly, so if recent form. the players have been chosen, now its time to see who thrives in the lion environment.

          1. Well the Warbs-Clerc comment was in reply to the accutastion of ol’ Sam being out of his depth leading a Lions tour, which I don’t think is true. Wales (and he) were unlucky not to get to the final.

            As for your pot stirring, all I can say is that that was a bit of a once off to be fair (poor technique or not) but Hartley’s rep speaks for itself. He’s a bit of a knob. But that could work out well for us if he’s able to ruffle some Aussie feathers.

  7. Graham, I am not sure that Greenwood and Catt and Tindall and Robinson and Luger and Lewsey and Cohen and Balshaw would agree with you that Wilkinson can only kick.

    1. He can certainly tackle and never shirks defensive responsibility. But in pressure games he has tendancy to stand too deep and kick. And has been known to “crack” if his pack is not totally dominant.
      The backs you mention – particularly Catt – used to relieve him of decision making pressure.
      Jonny was a game breaker in his ability to be able to kick penalties and drop goals in hostile environments. Quick thinking and line breaking were never his forte. I just don’t think he would have complimented the other selected backs, or Gatlands game plan.

  8. Disappointed for some of the England players who weren’t picked: Robshaw, 12trees, Wood etc
    on the plus side England can send a strong squad to Argentina in what should be a great test series.
    The best reaction to some of the selection disappointments is to perform exceptionally there

  9. “Gatland must be looking at BOD as cover at 12”

    i recall a while back gatland dropping a really big hint that it is Manu who he is looking to as 12 cover. also i think (and wales would seem to be proof of this) that gatland favours having the bulldozing centre at 12, and the player with better hands and an outside break at 13. for these reasons i think it is likely we will see BOD more in his traditional role of 13, while Manu will be able to fill in at 12.

    I would be very interested to see the list of backup names, to see who got themselves close. (especially in what we all thought might be tight calls, but someone else pipped them – eg Ross vs Murray at 3, yet stevens gets the nod)

    On stevens. surely his ability to play both sides is slightly irrelevant, as arent the teams meant to have 2 props on the bench? and the lions have taken 3 LH and 3 TH players… sure it helps if someone is injured, but the lions will have to call out another player anyway… i can only see it being handy if we revert back to 22 man squads (like they still have in the super15)

  10. My major concern would be the similarity of the potential centre pairings given that BOD has lost a yard of pace these days . Would like to have seen someone like Twelvetrees considered as he impressed me with his overall game when selected by England , I’m not English by the way !
    Phillips gives abrasion at scrum half but I prefer a scrum half who troubles back rows with his quickness rather than his strength.Hook’s omission is purely down to the animosity between him and Gatland , he provides the speed and flair that the other centres although extremely talented don’t provide.Pace will be the key to the tests so the back 3 is crucial to us winning the series.

  11. just had a thought.

    the summer tour squads for each home nation should be pretty interesting now. i am especially intrigued to see the welsh one… losing your 15 first line players will bring an interesting tour party for them.

    most of the irishmen who are with the lions were injured during the 6Ns anyway, so there wont be huge change there. not enough scots for a huge impact. england will surely have to rethink, as a couple of the expected players arent going with the lions, and yet others are… should be interesting pickings for them all.

    1. Yes, a tour to Japan with our 15 out will give Priestland and B Davies the chance to get back into shape. Also, give some young-uns a taste of success!

      1. Hopefully it will give your WRFU a kick up the ass to see how everything is well on the way to failing over there!

      2. ken owens, samson lee, and james look a good FR, liam williams and owen williams,ryan jones, priestland , mathew morgan tom james,bradley davies, rhys patchel, harry robinson , …. some great prospects , looking rosie imo .

    2. We (Ireland) are playing the US and Canada so it should be a great opportunity to blood more young talent.

      1. hope the yanks and cannucks front up. wouldnt want to see our boys getting too soft over the summer. maybe we could clone ngwenya and cudmore. but seriously, they’re losable matches when u see we’re without 9 members, 4~5 of which we will feel the loss but yeah good opportunity for new fledgelings. im happy gatland took more senior players for that reason. should be a proper challenge. i cant be bothered picking a team but madigan at 10. reddan at 8. felix jones, zebo, and trimble in the backs. gilroy, luke fitzgerald, dave kearney reserve backs. pereonnally i want to see jj hanrahan as reserve 10 ahead of keatley. excited to see him get capped.

        1. I suspect Zebo to be called as injury replacement for the Lions at some point.

          I’m glad the game aren’t a total foregone conclusion actually, it makes them worth watching. The kick off for the Canada game is 8pm Toronto time though!? I assume it’s not being shown live on RTE then?

  12. Fairly happy with the squad selection, surprised as everybody else by a few of the selections. If it were up to me, I’d keep the bulk of the squad with the following changes:

    Zebo over Cuthbert (we have enough big wingers)
    Madigan over Davies (more creative than JD, Roberts and Manu and can cover 10, 12 and 15)
    Wood over Lydiate (does as much work as Lydiate but has had more game time this year)
    Brown over Croft (more game time, covers all back row positions, 1 more Sco player)
    Hamilton/Launchbury over Gray (simply based on current form)
    Best over Hartley (think Hartley is overrated in the scrum and lineout plus he gets wound up too easily)
    Anybody over Stevens (because obviously)

      1. I thought Heaslip has looked pretty dangerous in his last 2 Amlin matches. Though based on his 6N form, you could probably convince me to drop him in favor of Morgan or maybe even Beattie.

      2. so heaslips 2 tries and undisputable man of the match against biarritz isnt current form?

  13. “Matt Stevens’ selection in the front row is presumably on the back of his versatility on both sides of the scrum”

    If this is the reason, then why no Paul James? Plays week in, week out for Bath (any fan’d tell you he’s top notch) and is very, very underrated.

    Amazing scrummer also.

    1. I don’t think anyone believes Stevens should be going except Gatland, unless Rowntree decided it would be better for England not to take him to Argentina! Ho ho. (i know he’s retired, before anyone says anything)

      1. Stevens offers something different to Jones and Cole in that he is a superior ball carrier. It is a strange selection although makes sense seeing that it was going to be Murray or Ross neither of whom are really up to it IMO

    2. i think ken owens was more unlucky than paul james , was superb for wales and scarlets this year , and improving every time i see him play .

  14. But, overall, I trust Gatland. And the squad is right. The subs ‘ll be key!

    When Youngs replaces Phillips the sub-forwards must be fit and eager. Mike Phillips can create his own space with his size, but Youngs need a bit of a platform. Because these 2 are so good, the 3rd would just wear the shirt and not really play.

    Paul James (last tweet) I feel sorry for, along with Rory Best. Also, with the inclusion of Lydiate, the “because of injury” card must be evaded. Ryan Jones is one for me. He’s always stepped up and is very reliable.

    50/50 on Robshaw. He’s a 6&1/2 and sadly in the Lions you need a 6 or a 7. But great 6N form is puzzling to leave out. Rory Best is the best. A Lions No.2 in my book and is unlucky.

    Would’ve gone for Visser ahead of Maitland. Leading try scorer is Pro-12 and had a good 6N. Maitland good though.

  15. Here is some food for thought/shit stirring
    Since the last Lions tour the home nations have had the following success rate v Australia:
    Wales: played 8, won 0
    Scotland: played 2, won 2
    England: played 5, won 2
    Ireland: played 3, won 1, drawn 1

    Warburton has played against Australia 7 times, losing each time.

    Perhaps we should have more Scots in the squad as they can tell warburton what it takes to beat Australia! :-)

    1. …..irrelivent , what about the results of these sides v Wales in the last 8 yrs ??

      1. Wales v Ireland 4-4
        Wales v England 3-5
        Wales v Scotland 7-1

        Whats your point? Don’t bring too many Scottish players



        1. highly unlickely ding dong as wales were champions 4 times& GS winners 3 ,… please explain how thats possible ? v england who have been 6n champs 1 time 13+ yrs ago !

        2. and my point was that the past results are irrelevant , even though wales were VERY unlucky not to win at least one of the last 3 tests in oz , ….8 pts diff over 3 games is no mean achievement , one of those won with a pen in 4 mins of overtime if i remember rightly , but we dont blame the ref do we , have to take it on the chin , not like it was 30-3 or anything !!

      2. Irrelevant Osiboy? The fact that Wales have played against OZ 8 times in the last 4 years and not won any of them (I repeat – 8 TIMES) – and they are supplying the coach, captain and the bulk of the squad – you don’t think that is relevant? Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

        1. but see NickC this is the LIONS not Wales, and the fact both Oz and Wales both smashed england last time out is more relevant , why are there are any english at all ?,in theory it makes it harder for us to win a test right ? at least Wales gave the Ozzies a game and we both smashed england , why would choosing english players help a lions team win ????,…. irrelevant or no ? doh !

          1. england were smashed by the Aussies last time out?

            England lost by 6 points. thats hardly a smashing…

            and if you had paid attention to nick’s point, you will see he made the point about wales losing the last 8 times they played Aus. of the last 8 times england played Ausengland have won 3 times. In fact, the last 3 times england have played Aus, england won 2, the aussies taking the most recent.


            I have posted the link of history between the two teams, feel free to educate yourself before making ill informed points.

  16. disgrace that Matt sniffer Stevens is in squad!
    Waste of space unless you want to score!
    Think R BEST should be instead of no-neck Hartley

    1. Object to the nasty inferences re Stevens, he has come back well after his 2yr ban, and has proved to be a linchpin in the most effective pack in the premiership (albeit he had problems with Sheridan in the first half in the HC semis) This is not to say that I believe he necessarily should have been a shoe in to the Lions but presumably his selection gives Rowntree an interesting option>

  17. I like the Stevens selection, not because I like Stevens but because it shows that the management is considering the tour atmosphere, from all that I hear Stevens is a loveable character and a good tourist, this will be important as well as talent, I am also hearing that there will be directives to award less penalties at the scrum thus making his lack of scrumaging less of an issue. Gatland has a plan and he has picked the players he thinks suit that plan.

    The team at least up front looks very mobile, from front to backrow they can all move. I think we will try to get to the rucks first and beat them at the break down, I like the thinking.

    Can’t wait

  18. and please educate me on the relevance as was the point ,….. if england hadbeat wales they would probably have 15 players on the plane , they did,nt and WERE smashed by little Wales , get over it , is this the lions or wales ? ,.. 30-3 is now history , get ovr it , not an england coach are you ?

    1. firstly, “little wales”? at what point has anybody said that? i will answer that. none, other than of course you just then. so i am sure that you referring to them as “little wales” will upset a few people.

      personally, i think that all of the welshmen who have a seat on the plane deserve them. i would possibly have chosen someone else over Evans, as i think that there were better options, but he has played pretty well so its not an issue. the point that Nick was making was that it is one thing to send 15 Welsh players out there, but if they entirely dominate the test team, then it may as well simply be a welsh team playing, rather than the lions. and based on recent history, this current welsh crop of players has not had much success against Aus.

      I believe that the view in Aus is actually quite an upbeat one, because they feel that this squad does not offer anything they can’t handle (or should i say haven’t handled).

      i also find it very interesting that you are the one who keeps mentioning england being comprehensively beaten by the welsh, and yet you say get over it… most people are over it, but they way you keep going on, i dont think you are.

      and finally, the point i was trying to make before, was that A) losing by 6 points is not a smashing (although you seem to think it was) therefore england were not smashed by Aus. and B) in recent history england actually have a pretty decent record against Aus, so your comment on none of them should be in the squad because they were “smashed” by Aus, and smashed by Wales is quite a silly one.

      Gatland is going to have to do something different if he wants to beat the Aussies, because as you have written, this is the lions, not wales. If he dominates the test team with welshmen and plays that style of rugby, then we have already lost. the lions need to do something different to that.

      1. i dont think anyone will be upset by me calling ourselves ‘little Wales’compared to England,France,Oz it’s what we are , and how England think of us too, u kno full well who thought the ‘slam’ was going home to ‘HQ’to biggest rugby nation on the planet , but instead of being gracefull in defeat the ref was blamed for it , now you say ‘most ppl are over it’ , well it maybe news to you but us Welsh take defeat on the chin , maybe cos we’r used it ,we dont keep blaming refs even though we’ve had many a good cause do so many times, before Walsh it was that england were crying over a strettle try that never was , no wonder the ozzies call u whingin’ poms ,the whole of Wales knew we deserved at least 1 win v Oz series but we did’nt spit our dummies out even with them kicking a pen a few mins into injury time . You believe the oz press all u want , but i kno they wont relish a battle with against any of those Welsh again ive never seen such relief from australia to hear the final wistle and it was IN AUSTRALIA .As for you interprating Nick’s thoughts , thanks , as for your own , saying Gatland will have to do something different , he was’nt even there , Howley was coaching . As for entirely dominating the team …. do you mean like the 71′ lions the 74′ lions , the 73 baba’s maybe ? they were’nt very good teams were they ? or is 7/8/9 players not dominating a team ?. I have nothing to “get over” we smashed you , im wollowing in it , YOU have to get over it .

        1. Osiboy:
          First get over yourself, then get over that win.
          And switch to decaff too while you’re at it, mate.

          1. Great reply scrumbag. Totally agree!

            Osiboy, England BEAT Aus IN AUSTRALIA in one of there more recent results, again feel free to look at the link I sent.
            Gatland was coaching when Wales list the series 3-0 in Aus. So yes, the lions WILL need to so something different.

            Oh, and as pointed out in a post regarding the complaints of the ref, you will note that someone pointed out the welsh coaching staff have complained about refs y

          2. Great reply scrumbag. Totally agree!

            Osiboy, England BEAT Aus IN AUSTRALIA in one of there more recent results, again feel free to look at the link I sent.
            Gatland was coaching when Wales list the series 3-0 in Aus. So yes, the lions WILL need to so something different.

            Oh, and as pointed out in a post regarding the complaints of the ref, you will note that someone pointed out the welsh coaching staff have complained about refs too…

            So to conclude. Get over that win, and more importantly, get over yourself.

  19. Firstly as an Englishman, I haven’t got over the bloomin Welsh game.

    I also thought the refereeing was rubbish, but not that it changed the result.

    However I have been reminded of why I hate the Welsh winning and that’s because the result has been rammed down my throat more times than I care to mention since the game. Well done, you played one perfect game. We did it against the AB’s. It probably won’t happen again for 2 or 3 years. Just remember Wales aren’t as good as that last game but equally aren’t as bad as 8 defeats on the bounce.

    I do however think that the majority of the Welsh players on the Lions tour deserve to go, although not on the basis of one substantial win.

    I also think that in the marginal places the Welsh contingent seemed to have had the calls, although accept that there are a couple of English surprises there too. Having said that, much has been made of Gatland wanting a power game and perhaps some of the Welsh players are better suited to that. Gatland will go up or down in our estimation depending on how well the team does – it’s his call and I think that most people think that he deserves his shot to coach the Lions based on his rugby results. The only quibble is that maybe there shouldn’t be a current national coach leading the Lions.

    I do think that it is a fair point that Australia seem to have the upper hand on Wales, and that this is a valid psychological point. Would it have changed the make up of most of the squad. Probably not. Are there any of the marginal players picked who are likely to get into the test team. Probably not. Are there injury replacements who might force their way into the test squad. History tells us it might happen.

    Will I be supporting the Lions even if 15 Welsh players start (Biggar late call up!). Probably. Cause the Aussies are even worse winners!

    Right, as long as you Welsh promise to give up on Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s claims to the Welsh throne, I promise to forget the thrashing that you handed out and we can all support the Lions together. However many Welsh are picked!

      1. simo, thanks for the wiki link i never heard of wikipedia before and never had permission from anyone to look at it before , was happy to see that the first 70 yrs {b4 the pro age it was 50/50 between wales and oz, but i was so suprised to see that england have toured there in 63,75,88,91,97,98,99,03,04,06,and 2010 and have the proud record of winning 2 games , 51-15,43-18,and 34-3 were some of the close ones , so thanks for the link !biggest rugby nation on earth , u must be so proud , wish we had more of you winners like that in the lions squad ! or just a better ref ehh ?? hahahahaha

        1. since 03 england have won 3 times on aussie soil (one of which you may recall was a world cup final). so not sure why you decided to discount one of them…

          wales on the other hand have only ever managed the 1 win on aussie soil.

          england have 3 wins in 17 tests in Aus. that is a 17.65% win rate.
          Wales have 1 win in 12 tests in Aus. 8.33% win rate.

          the last welsh win on aussie soil came in 1969. England however managed it in 2010.
          seeing as we are looking at the lions’ prospects, it is worthwhile looking at recent history, therefore it is pretty easy to see that the current welsh style of play “the gatland blueprint” is not effective enough to get the job done in aus.

          also its all well and good looking at “before the pro age” for national pride, but in terms of the lions context, it is irrelevant. i could select the period of 2000-2003, england had a 100% record against the aussies. but that is pointless, and it is misleading.

          oh, and if you want to list big losses to the walabies, then maybe you should have a look at 28-9, 38-3, 63-6, 23-6, 56-25, 42-3, 31-0.

          on your comments of England being the bigest rugby nation. there is no doubt that we do have a large number of registered players in the country.
          the numbers i can find are as follows.
          total male players 1,182,602
          total male players 69,073

          taking into account the populations of the two nations
          (53.01 million for england, and 3.064 million for wales) you will notice that the % of registered male players is 2.23% in england and 2.25% in wales. Considering that rugby is the national sport in wales, and yet is possibly 3rd choice in england, i would say that it is hard to label england “the biggest rugby nation” simply based on sheer numbers.

          so, to summarise, in the words of Scrumbag – Get over yourself.

          1. WTF ! how else would do you base the largest rugby playing nation then ?? on land mass ?, in which case i guess the aussies should be streets ahead even in the 50s&60s when their pop was around 13m ,and rugby union is their 3 rd sport too,or should it be greenland or canada seems your gettin a bit desperate now , graspin at straws , i knew there was a big difference but 1,113,000 more reg players in England …..WOW! How embarrassing for you not to win everything !!, and we’ve won the same amount of games v each other too ,difference is we try to play the game as it SHOULD be played , not using forwards to demolish little teams like japan with truck n trailer style moves . To say rugby is our national sport is true , not the most/popular or watched though ,football wins that one im afraid ,cardiff city average around 25,000, swansea around 22k , you can half that for the rugby for englands pop being 51m , is that just the immigrants ? and england have won 2 tests in oz not 3 , the WC does not count as a test match , if you remember wales v england when england won the WC do you also remember Wales scoring 3 tries to Englands 1 in the QF ? , WHAT A FIX THAT WAS , awful ref , but hey ,.. we did’nt complain about the ref giving england 9 kicks at goal in the second half , you needed them cos u were favorites ,8 drop goals to get there and one to win it , a complete bore until the last whistle unanimously the worst final ever and their last i hope . now i will state again …what has this got to do with the lions team , its all history !…matters not a jot , go back to wikipedia and think how things would be different if kicks 3 mins into extra time were NOT allowed ,.. wales would have a better record v oz than england in less games ,… those bloody refs ehh ???,…… off for a coffee !

          2. First off, clearly I am not basing being a rugby nation on land mass, because I bothered to spend time working out the percentages for players in the population, to give more of an illustration. But that was obviously too logical that you decided to ignore it…

            Moving on. Having spent time living in Australia, rugby union actually tends to rank at about 4th, coming after cricket, afl and league.

            “Wales are playing the game how it should be played” you have a back line the size of forwards, who simply try and run over everything, and a 15 who kicks the majority of the points…

            Now you are blaming the ref in the 03 QF… You were telling everyone to get over the recent England/Wales game, yet you are still moaning about one 10 years ago. Oh, and yes I do remember that game, quite fondly from my seat in the stands.

            If kicks were not allowed in extra time?! That is a basic principle of rugby. Why don’t we just start chucking in things like “if you could throw a quick lineout, even after someone else had touched the ball” (oh wait, Wales DO do that).

            And lastly “the rugby World Cup final doesn’t count as a test match”… What are you on? Of course it counts as a test match you fool. In fact it is the ultimate test match (excluding possibly a lions test). And your comment about hoping England don’t make another RWC final after 03… Do you recall 07? Too late!

            The fact that you think a RWC final is not a proper test (I bet if Wales had made it in 11 your view would be different) you clearly aren’t worth my time anymore.

          3. Simo, 1/ you bothered working out all those stats to illustrate what ? THAT I WAS RIGHT ? well i was , England are the biggest rugby nation on the planet you were wrong . 2/ Gatland was not in charge on the Aussie tour it was Howley , like i said , go to your precious wikipedia to confirm it babas,argies,3x aus,samoa and ireland games were all lost before he turned it around , YOU WERE WRONG ,I WAS RIGHT , the fact that England have 17+ times the amount of players available than do Wales and that England have a 17% away record v Aus compared to Wales 8.4%is interesting ehh ? England in theory should have 17 teams equal to Wales . To say i was blaming the ref was sarcasm ,ever heard of it ? . And don’t put words in my mouth , i said Wales TRY to play rugby as it should be played , thats not always poss of course, but last time out they were pretty good , conceded no tries and scored 2 excellent ones , a near perfect performance don’t you think ?, of course with another ref England would have won {sarcasm ok?}I will admit that i was wrong to say the WC is not a test , but what i meant to say was ,it was not a tour/test , sorry about that .As i already tried explain, rugby maybe the national sport but is at best on a par with soccer for reg players , 1st 2nd 3rd , doesn’t matter , if 1 player turns up to play against an English xvii i think you might scrape a draw {sarcasm } get the point ? here you seem to fail to understand a few things , you say before/after the pro age makes no difference ? if you live/play for a little Welsh village of 300 ppl where do you think money comes from to pay these players , the best have been poached by English clubs, league or union for 100 yrs and is still happening , that’s why numbers are more important than the land mass , being a small overcrowded country = £££,England are in the best position of any nation to be No1 ,understand ? .To finish off, i would like to ask you , do you think the ref was bias regarding Wal v Eng ? . Thanks ,have a nice day

  20. OK, a somewhat delayed initial reaction …. but it is ….

    What do we do if “Plan A” doesn’t work? If Aus aren’t dominated upfront in the first test and stand up to the power of the backs what then? If they have more gas on the pitch than us and we can’t live with the pace of their backs what can we change?

    I think he’s pushed all his chips in the middle pre-flop, I would have preferred to keep our options open and have a bit more variety.

    Things I like:
    – The pack! OK a few have got in on prior heights (Gray and Lydiate) and I don’t agree with every selection decision, but it’s an incredible set of forwards. A little concerned over depth at Hooker and 8, and may have preferred 2 out and out scrummaging loose heads plus an X factor prop rather than vice versa (though I can see Vunipola on the test bench being a real game changer).

    Things I don’t like:
    – 2 10s is fine in principal, but if your second 10 is also having a bit of an end of season wobble then I think it’s even more important to have a backup who has played there since school (Laidlaw, Hook or 36)
    – Not enough pace in the backs. The vast majority are guys you would call “pretty fast for their size” rather than truly express (probably only Hogg and Maitland could be labelled “express”, Youngs having good gas for an SH as well)
    – Out of 7 back 3 players only one could be called a “stepper” (Hogg), changing one of the wingers for a Zebo or a Wade would at least mean there is something different on offer.

    On the debate on the overall balance of the squad, I think every country can point to very good players who are unlucky to miss out. To be fair it’s England who probably have the most players selected who you may label lucky to make the cut. In terms of selection I don’t see any national bias at all.

    On the debate as to whether we are going to play “Welsh rugby”, since when did Welsh rugby become just about massive, super fit athletes who seek contact, look to win the collisions and outwork the opposition? We are going to play “Gatland rugby”, it just so happens that that’s the blueprint he’s currently using for Wales.

    So there’s not a much bigger pool to pick from, but not many are adding to the power game that wasn’t good enough to get a win against an injury decimated set of Wallabies last year. So I’m not too optimistic that the “Gatland rugby” blueprint is going to do the job this year either!

    1. Matt, I do agree on the plan B problems. I was thinking about making a similar point. As you say many of the players selected are prototype players, with bizarrely probably the biggest range of players in the front row. No matter how good the front row is, they are unlikely to change the game when coming on.

      Second row are mainly big lumps, although Gray is more mobile if he recovers form and Parling can get about the field, but there aren’t any real rangy change of pace types. Back row does have Tipuric, but he might start, SH has Youngs, FH I like steady and back three you can’t complain about. Therfore I guess centre is where the attacking problem may lie. However you do have BoD until injury strikes, and Wales did score tries in the 6N, although they did look very stodgy in midfield at times.

      I have to admit that I have gone around in several circles on this one and probably am most worried about creativity in midfield. I don’t think either JD or JR had great 6N tournaments and as we know Tuilagi isn’t the best distributor, so maybe here is where we really lack a change of pace/style player – either a slippery runner ie Guscott/Fofana type or midfield general ie C Smith. The sad truth is that we don’t really have that type of player available who has good experience, but it may be that this is the position where Gatland rues not taking a chance on an untested player with xfactor. 12t’s, Hook, Eastmond or Tomkins maybe.

      We shall see!

      1. To be fair to the Welsh boys their wings do seem to get the majority of the tries so the ball must be getting out there somehow, even if we aren’t dazzled on route.

        Sacrificing a Kearney for a 36 or Hook would have given us the option of introducing something a little different, also with more 10 cover it gives us the option of moving Sexton to 12 in the same way Ireland do (or did) when RoG used to come on. But with just 2 10s not sure having both on the pitch at once is a good move.

        1. Thinking about it, I have an inkling that most of the Welsh wingers tries came from well timed crash balls through the centre, or from broken play. I might be wrong.

  21. i know there is no chance of it happening but to me the lions could do with Henson in the center , he makes things happen ,…. such a silly boy and a waste of talent , but imo we need a player of his quality ,vision and style , who mention sexton at center ? oz would eat him for breakfast !John Davies looks slow but hes deceptive , believe me the guy can shift and has nose for tries , when Gats took the Wales job he decided power was better than class and hook was left on the sidelines and Hensons ego was too big for Gats , he doesn’t like a gamble and i feel there is a lot of talent going to waste in wales Patchel and owen williams for starters ,…. leicester i think signed Williams for next season , a star in the making for sure !

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