Lions Scout Notes: 3rd April

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Tom Croft

Man of the match against Northampton, Tom Croft is gradually raising his profile again since his return from a career threatening injury. Although not excelling for England, more performances like this could see the versatile flanker establish himself with Warren Gatland’s plans for the Lions Tour. Several excellent carries and an outstanding work rate typified his performance as Leicester blew away their rivals with consummate ease. Speaking after the game, Croft highlighted the importance for his team of “sticking to what they were doing” as they pulled ahead. This is something the forward exemplified with a consistent and powerful performance.

Verdict: Looking for his passport

Justin Tipuric

Starting to feature quite heavily in Scout Notes is Justin Tipuric, who has to have at least one foot in the door for Lions selection. A fantastic game at the Millenium stadium was underlined by the battle between Warburton and Tipuric. The latter Lions hopeful was at the heart of everything Ospreys produced and cropped up in his usual menacing attacking positions after breaking off the scrum. Not only this but his ability to get around the park is phenomenal, clearing out the opposition at the break down and ensuring the ball comes back on his side. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of competition at 7 but his mobility and dynamism may just see him on that place.

Verdict: Waiting nervously by the phone

Sean Maitland

Impressive during the six nations the New Zealand born Scottish winger is continuing to turn heads within the RABO Pro 12. He has been an important component in his clubs recent success in topping the league. He chipped in with a relatively simple try by his standards as his team broke away from Munster’s clutches to run riot. However these vital contributions may well see this exciting player in coming into Lions contention. There is only one real certainty on the wing for the tour in the formidable shape of George North so continued displays of finishing prowess will provide the Glasgow flyer with every opportunity of going down under.

Verdict: Looking nervously for his passport

Paddy Jackson

A late arrival onto the scene in the Six Nations for Ireland saw some solid performances from the young fly half. With the injury to Sexton and the loss of form from O’Gara the number 10 has a real opportunity to make a name for himself. Although only an outside chance for Lions Selection, he is worth a mention as injuries have a funny way of forcing people into the limelight. Excellent passing and decision making in the crucial phases saw Jackson instigate the momentum that carried Ulster over the line for their winning try against fierce rivals Leinster at the weekend. They are now in strong contention for the top spot as the Pro 12 nears its conclusion.

Verdict:Planning his summer holidays

32 thoughts on “Lions Scout Notes: 3rd April

  1. I have a feeling that both Croft and Maitland will tour. I actually think that Jackson is the only guy on this list that will not.

    Croft adds something different to the back row options, and he also been on a Lions tour before. He does a lot more of the work on the floor than some people recognize, and is as fast and athletic as any back row forward in world rugby.

    Tipuric has to go as he really impresses me every time I see him play, and Maitland for me genuine class – and we do not have many wingers in the NH that are!

    1. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere he is the fastest back row in world rugby. Which wouldn’t really surprise me as he’s gassed plenty of wingers with his galloping stride.

      1. when marcello lafreda was in charge of the tigers he said the only player in his squad faster than Croft was Varndell…

  2. I dont think Jacko has a chance but stranger things have happened. I think Andrew Trimble is worth a emntion. He has been excellent all season and for some reason was ignored by declan kidney.

    A big game on saturday by him or gilroy could see one of them sneak a wing spot.

  3. Personally I just can’t understand all of the love for Gilroy. I don’t think that he really did anything during the 6N, although to be fair that is a charge that could be levelled against most of the wingers. But he doesn’t have any proper previous to back him up either. North and Cuthbert are certs, Zebo should go if he is fit. Maitland, Visser, Ashton, Brown, Trimble, Gilroy, Bowe (is he fit?) are then all in with a shout and that’s if Halfpenny doesn’t get picked as a wing/FB. Can’t see Gilroy going with that competition. Versatility may be prized which might help Brown.

    1. I agree staggy that he didnt have a storming 6 nations but he hardly got any ball on the front foot. We all remember zebo becuase of that foot trickery but tbh he didnt do much more than Gilroy in that game.

      My point is that if he has a couple of big games, in high profile games like this sat he could force his way on the plane. The same could be said for zebo or trimble or any winger playing the Heinkein cup.

    1. I think that’s where the extra winger could come into play. Christian Wade, Eli Walker, Jonny May, are all possibles.

      1. jonny may certainly would be good, gatland has said he’ll be in bath this weekend however with only paul james and david wilson current international players with wales and england respectively who else do you think gatland will have his eyes on at this weekends bath v stade game?

    2. I think maybe Elliot Daly! He is absolute class and is massively versatile which would be a benefit on a Lions tour! He is gas, has a massive boot, great hands! And can pretty much play anywhere from 10 to 15, I would also think he would do a job at 9!

  4. Croft having a brilliant game out on the wing won’t be enough on it’s own to take a place off Robshaw, Warburton, Tipuric, SOB, Brown, Jones, Lydiate or Wood etc (he would probably need to be picked ahead of 4 of those). With so many excellent players in the back row I think he’s got to demonstrate he can excel at the dirty stuff as well, not just the x-factor stuff, to get on the tour.

    1. Agree completely – I do not see the point of even considering Croft when there are so many better backrow players around and we already have a load of decent centres and wings.

    2. I think that criticism is very outdated. He was superb on the past Lions tour. And he certainly does enough of the dirty stuff. In my opinion this criticism comes from people who do not watch enough rugby, or just watches internationals and bases their opinion on that. He is a key player at Leicester, and of any club they certainly aren’t one to carry a so called “luxury” player.

      1. Your opinion is wrong – I watch loads of rugby and do not buy the idea that every player at Leicester must be excellent simply because they play for Leicester.

        We are talking about comparing best of the best when selecting Lions. Nobody is saying he is rubbish, but a few of us are saying that he is not in the league of his backrow competitors. His speed is irrelevant as we can, for example, go for Tipuric if we want speed but with the added bonus of an actual backrow player. Or we can go for O’Brien for line busting ball carrying, or Robshaw for tackling and positional awareness, or Warburton … so many more options than simply picking the guy who’s a very good centre/wing for a forward, but not as good a forward as the players he is in competition with.

        I certainly do not remember him being superb for the Lions. Good yes, but not superb.

        1. I think two tries is a pretty good performance from a flanker.

          And my opinion was not a blast at you Brighty to please do get off your high horse, I am sure you do watch a lot of rugby.

          What I was trying to get across was that the opinion that Croft doesn’t do the hard graft is wrong – and that opinion normally comes from those who just watch and England game or two – in no way did I say you did that – that is just where those types of opinions usually come from.

          Also, again, I did not suggest that he was a good player because he plays for Leicester. The point I was trying to make was that Leicester’ style of play does not lend itself to carrying a luxury style player around at 6.

          1. Jacob, you are right to highlight these perceptions of Croft as not being a grafter. In the same way as some paint Mike Brown as having no pace, or (at times) Halfpenny having no attacking game, it is just wrong based usually on a particular strength in another area of the game.

            One thing that is clearly in Croft’s favour is his excellence on the last tour – which included Gatland as one of the coaches. South Africa, like Leicester, is not an environment where non-grafting back-rowers can excel. The point though, is that it is not binary, so being an athletic runner does not discount any less subtle skill-sets. It just sometimes can overshadow them.

          2. Personally think much of the selection of the back row will come down to what sort of game Gatland wants to play, as there are a whole load of lumps, ball carriers, athletes, tacklers, grafters, etc out there who could get on the plane, but what is he trying to achieve? I don’t suppose anyone knows the answer to that apart from him and his trusted advisors. With the right game plan Croft could well go.

          3. We should place a higher value on the international performances than the club ones. It’s the international arena where the physicality really steps up and the breakdowns are contested by the best exponents.

            This weekend will be a good litmus test however, Tigers are unlikely to be rolling Toulon over upfront. This won’t be a game won by 7 forwards and 8 backs. If Croft helps win the back row battle and still brings his X factor stuff out wide then he’s certainly a contender.

        2. I remember him being superb for the lions hence even the southern hemisphere commentators regarding him as one of the best blindsides going. And its not just his speed (with which he makes tipuric look like adam jones) the fact that he is a brilliant line out operator and with the holes I am hoping some of your loved welsh players will make he is going to be the perfect support player.
          no not ever leicester player is good because they play for leicester but the likelihood is that if you’re in the leicester pack, youre pretty damn good evidence by how they tore apart a much vaunted northampton pack

  5. I think gatland choosing to attend the bath game is odd as well. Could quite possibly see the bolter come from one of these less obvious games if you like. Not less important as such, just there are bigger blockbusters on elsewhere

  6. I don’t think lydiate or brown are guaranteed places so back row should still be fairly open. Just seems there is a plethora of world class talent providing gatland with a rich selection of choice. It’s the most competitive area for the whole tour. Apart from the wings of course

  7. gatland going to the bath game could mean that he is looking at Eastmond.

    plays 15, wing, 13 and 12, and could equally play 10, or maybe even 9. plus he is absolute gas

    1. Eastmond is a possibility. Outside bets on Abendanon, Biggs and the Fiji fella. Hipkiss?

      Very, very longshot that someone has discovered a loophole that allows Italian qualified, French resident, Argentinian No8’s to represent the Lions!

  8. most probably eastmond or roko as they are both young and potentially very special players for the future

    bendy and biggs have been great this season but not lions quality, others to look at include banahan, locks day and attwood and hooker rob webber.

    young tom heathcote is very accurate with his kicking but no way he’ll get picked.

    1. I got quite excited about the thought of Eastmond being a bolter, but then the missus reminded me he’s probably looking at Paul James more than anything.

      1. Think you are right. As it’s looking increasingly likely that Toulon players are going to be occupied up to the point of the first lions fixture James has to be in with a decent shout.

        1. That’s it – if Gatland really does stay true to his word then presumably neither Sheridan nor Jenkins will make the squad.

          1. What would your thoughts be if he takes Jenkins but not sheridan a man who clearly is above him in the pecking order at the club? (and to be fair to him has a pretty good international record)

  9. more chance jenkins will go if sheridan is first choice at toulon. highlights the stupidity of scheduling the lions matches when the main season in europe has not finished. a week or ten days later wouldn’t of hurt anybody and solved this problem.

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