I almost wish I hadn’t already mentioned Gilroy in light of his outstanding try this week. However, it was an older head who staked his claim to retaining his place in the Lions squad. In a truly dominant display by an Irish side, full-back Tommy Bowe ignited his season after a slow start with two tries of his own. The first was a display of his sheer pace and power as he chased down a brilliantly weighted chip, beating two Argentines to the ball to gather and finish well. He will have certainly raised the question whether experience and age are going to have any bearing on Gatland’s selection next year. As Jeremy Guscott stated, “Bowe has found his pace, his edge, his determination”.
Whilst England were desperately unlucky with the decisive try, there was once again a frustrating element surrounding the team’s performance as basic errors and poor decision making let them down. However, Stuart Lancaster can certainly take heart from the performance of Joe Launchbury, whose immediate effect when coming on against Australia earned him a starting place this time round. The second row’s work rate was first class throughout the match and although the line-out was shaky, the 21 year-old seems to be forging a good relationship with Parling. The lock’s ability to get around the pitch is unquestionable and whilst he has a clear psychical presence the key aspects of his game remain at the forefront. If he continues his performances for club and country he will be a strong Lions contender.
The Autumn Internationals have been unforgiving to a depleted Welsh side and a visit from the high-flying All Blacks provided little respite as they suffered another resounding defeat. However, they were happy to welcome back the much needed presence of Jonathan Davies at 13. Greatly missed from the opening tests, the grand-slam winning centre provided a little more stability in defence and a clear threat in attack. The statistics show just how much he was missed with only one line break coming in the two opening defeats. Although Davies could do little this time round, his value is undeniable – he is a clear favourite for the number 13 shirt when the Lions tour comes around.
Andy Robinson cast a despondent figure in his last match in charge of Scotland as his side’s woeful performance against Tonga saw them emerge empty handed from a game they should have won. Lions contention is probably not the priority for Scottish players at the moment, however, the industry Richie Gray has displayed so far in all of the tests puts him (not just physically), head and shoulders above the rest of his team.
By Jono Frank