Our Lions Scouts were generally downcast at what they saw over the weekend, with Wales, England and Scotland all beaten at home by southern hemisphere opposition. But there were still one or two performances that caught the eye.
A much changed Irish team provided the chance for a number of bright young prospects to stake a claim to a place in the side. This is especially the case for the backline, with Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy beginning to slip out of the limelight. Whilst the centres certainly impressed, wing Craig Gilroy put in an outstanding display, scoring a hat-trick, the third an interception run from deep within the Irish half, which truly demonstrated his blistering pace. Whilst Fiji weren’t the toughest opponents, this will have been a welcome victory for Declan Kidney, which will hopefully provide some momentum going into the game against Argentina. It only remains to be seen who will start in the backline.
Scotland’s only real moment of incision against the Springboks came from Henry Pyrgos, whose presence on the pitch was certainly a positive one. The young scrum half managed to get the ball moving a lot quicker for Scotland in the moments when they did build some sustained pressure. Furthermore his try was brilliantly taken from a well worked line-out, as he darted through the South African forwards to dive over the line. Based on this weekend, scrum-half could be quite an open position on the Lions tour next year and if the young number 9 can get some more international games under his belt, he could be pushing for selection.
The wave England were riding following their strong performance against Fiji broke on some pretty sharp, Australian rocks this weekend, with a grounding and disappointing performance. However, amongst the drab displays, one player did no harm to his Lions prospects. Manu Tuilagi continued to assert his physicality within the three-quarters and managed, somewhat controversially, to dot the ball down for his third try of the series. The Samoan-born number 13 keeps doing the basics right, something which was desperately lacking from the collective display, and is slowly maturing into a world class player. His try scoring ability and psychical presence on the pitch would undoubtedly benefit the Lions squad.
Well, it’s hard to know what to say. The papers’ damning headlines after last week’s performance seem justified as Wales continued their nightmare start to the Autumn Internationals. With New Zealand’s visit this weekend, the signs are worrying for Wales, but they will be bolstered by the return of Jonathan Davies and with Leigh Halfpenny at full-back there is always some reassurance. Warren Gatland will know the Wales side better than anyone and despite their recent performances, the number 15 remains a strong candidate for the role; defensively he is reliable and he is continuing to prove his strong kicking ability.
By Jono Frank