Lions Scout Notes – 21st Nov

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.

Craig Gilroy
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.

Henry Pyrgos
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.

Manu Tuilagi
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.

Leigh Halfpenny
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

19 thoughts on “Lions Scout Notes – 21st Nov

  1. Not sure about Tuilagi at the moment. Apart from his (sort of) try, he spent a lot of the time crabbing across the field and denying space to his wingers

    Also, the try would have been far more definite, if he’d given the pass for what would have been a relatively easy run-in

    Someone needs to make him run straight to give room for players like Ashton to get on his shoulder. He’ll be far more effective

    1. If he passed that ball, Sharples would have been slammed into touch. That said, if the referee decreed double movement, the ball would have been slammed into touch further up field. Right decision this time, but by a hair’s breadth

    2. Fully agree. And I don’t think moving him to 12 would make much difference. People criticise Barritt, but he does run straight and try to offload. I sometimes wonder if Ashton would be better at 13, with Tuilagi on the wing. At least Ashton tries to get on people shoulders ready for potential offloads.
      I think going forward a combination of Barritt and Joseph is more beneficial to England’s style of play. The problem then is what to do with Tuilagi. Seems a shame to have him on the bench??

  2. I think when you have the option to select a guy who is as devastatingly powerful as Tuilagi you must consider him. Surely garland has not just as a centre but as a winger too.

  3. Well done for managing to select any players for the list from the slim pickings of this weekend. I have to disagree with Tuilagi – one decent score (whether it was or wasn’t) doesn’t negate the negative aspects of his game. To say he does the basics right is interesting given that most of us regard a) passing b) putting unmarked players through as basic skills and he doesn’t do either of those, with clear examples of failing them this weekend.

    I don’t know about Halfpenny’s performance on the weekend but agree that at the moment he’s the best B&I fullback playing, but at the moment that is not saying much.

    1. Slim pickings, but I think competition for Lions places will be hot again after Wales beat the All Blacks and England beat South Africa…

      Optimism for northern hemisphere rugby always starts to return at about this stage of the week.

  4. Optimism usually rises in this neck of the woods until about 10 seconds after the Haka finishes and it’s downhill thereafter .

    Plenty of Gatland returns from coaching the Lions headlines too don’t know who he is actually coaching at the moment though !

  5. Daza, I reckon that we might just see a Barritt and Joseph centre partnership this weekend with Tuilagi being played on the wing instead of Sharples. It would be an interesting combination if they can play Manu into the game and get him enough ball to make things happen. Lets see.

  6. I think swapping Ashton and Tuilagi might be an interesting move. Ashton isn’t getting good carries at the moment but he’s quick and seems better at offloads than Tuilagi, while Manu’s efficiency as a battering ram could make him a strong prospect as a wing. Thoughts?

    1. I’d like to see how Tuilagi fares on the wing, out of curiosity, but explosive power by itself is not very useful on the wing as the touchline is a very effective defender. North and Cuthbert are big but they still bring good footwork to the field (or at least they used to – North’s form dropoff has been so severe that there are suggestions he might now be moved to centre).

  7. What does Roberts bring that Tuilagi doesn’t? Apart from Tuilagi being the more powerful, explosive player.

    1. I would not be starting Tuilagi.
      We need someone like conrad smith, an all rounder who does everything well, not brilliantly, but has good vision and a rugby brain.

      Tuilagi only looks for contact.

    2. That’s a good question. When Roberts came onto the scene he was a fullback – a decent attacking/passing fullback. The Wales management converted him to centre and he did, initially, play a very decent running and passing game at centre. Then the Lions tour came along and he carried on playing that way – most people remember his busts up the middle but they were also more often than not followed with offloads to O’Driscoll outside him, which is the why the partnership was so lauded.

      So I’d say that what Roberts can bring is the explosive power but coupled with the ability to pass once he is past the gain line.

      I say “can” because this is one aspect of his game that has got worse over the last 12 months, but I think (hope) that this is part of the wider confidence crisis that Wales in general are going through. We’ve gone from being the team with most offloads to the team with the least, confidence is a big factor when playing that sort of game. So I would say that Roberts has the potential to be a much better centre than Tuilagi because teaching someone to see the pass is much, much harder than training them to use their size.

  8. ANY advice welcome. How long after triple bypass heart surgery is it safe to start watching NH playing SH?

    1. I’d give it a few years to be honest. Not sure how much joy there will be over the next fortnight, but I’m always optimistic (and usually disappointed).

      1. Couldn’t resist – just watched Ireland pummel the Argies – has to give your heart a lift!!

        Ding Dong

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