Jono Frank reviews the Wales and England games at the weekend to identify potential Lions candidates.
With only England and Wales playing this weekend the scope for Lions potentials was narrowed. Fly-Half is going to be a contentious issue for Gatland to deal with and Owen Farrell is certainly a name that will be heavily debated. Whilst his excellent performance against the All-Blacks showed the cool head that is required for a lions number 10 and that he can step up to a challenge; previous displays have highlighted his lack of flare and ingenuity that someone like Freddie Burns clearly possesses. Nevertheless, Farrell is consistent with the boot and has time to grow at Saracens. If he can develop a cutting edge to his game he will certainly put himself in and amongst the likes of Sexton, Preistland and Flood when Warren Gatland comes to choosing the number 10 jersey.
A difficult period for Welsh Rugby was painfully capped off with a narrow defeat to Australia. Welsh players may not be at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to Lions selection however, the likes of Alex Cuthbert shouldn’t be forgotten about. Whilst the young Welsh winger has been on the receiving end in this series his pace and power may be just what the Lion’s team needs. His exciting burst of pace from within his own half against Australia is testament to the raw talent he possesses. Although he didn’t throw the pass a cooler head might have, he has time on his side. With 13 caps at the age of 22, he has proved his a quick learner. The likes of Ashton, Visser, North and Bowe will provide stiff competition but Cuthbert will be in the frame.
In a second half that will live long in the memory of any England supporters there were many excellent performances. Hearts were certainly in mouths as England saw their lead quickly diminished to within a point as they All-Blacks seemed to recapture their form. However, England managed to fight fire with fire with an un-foreseen energy that seemed to spark all elements of their rugby into life. Justifiably named man-of-the-match, Tom Wood, was central to this, seemingly first to every break down and fantastic in the loose the number 6, quite literally at some points, carried England towards the line. The competition in the back-row will undoubtedly be fierce when the Lions Tour comes around, however the Northampton flanker has certainly done no harm to his chances with his contribution to this outstanding team performance.
By Jono Frank
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images