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?