There is no stopping Tom Croft at the moment. He is rapidly shifting through the gears back to top form with such smoothness that his Lions’ place looks like a no-brainer. Over the past few weeks the flanker has been in scintillating form and this weekend was no exception. Croft’s contribution to Leicester’s semi-final victory should see him firmly in contention for Test Match action during the Australia Tour. The versatile flanker burst away from the Harlequins defence with frightening pace to score the try of the match as well as denying Danny Care with some outstanding defensive work. With strong competition in the back row, Croft’s starting role is up for some debate. For me, however, he has to start against Australia.
With Owen Farrell’s Saracens coming up short against Northampton the stage could be set for returning fly-half Sexton to take the leading role during the Lions Tour. The Leinster fly-half battled against some tricky conditions to kick his side to victory over Glasgow. One contentious aspect of the Lions selection is Gatland’s decision to only take two fly-halves with the only possible cover coming from Stuart Hogg. With Farrell young in years and Sexton making his way back from an injury suffered during the Six Nations who will start against Australia remains to be seen. Based on this weekend’s action, Gatland is likely to opt for the more experienced head of the Irish number 10.
Jonny Wilkinson felt that the rigours of a Lions Test would be too much of strain physically. Similar fears were undoubtedly raised as Brian O’Driscoll made an untimely exit from proceedings at the weekend. One person however, who will withstand the test is Manu Tuilagi. A solid performance at weekend showed not only defensive strength but the benefit of having that dynamism in midfield to suddenly provide an incisive and often decisive line break. The extent of O’Driscoll’s recent injury remains to be seen but it has certainly paved the way for Tuilagi to come to the forefront and raise his hand for a starting role against Australia this summer.
By Jono Frank