Lions Scout Notes: April 10th

Jonny Wilkinson

One final flourish? Although out of the Aviva Premiership spotlight, Jonny Wilkinson has been plying his trade with perfection in the sunny south of France. We were given a true reminder of his quality this weekend as Toulon’s battling performance, underlined by the confrontation between Flood and Wilkinson, saw the French side dispose of Leicester’s Heineken Cup chances. Now undoubtedly there are other English players in the Toulon side who deserve recognition but would Warren Gatland’s Lions benefit from the World Cup winning head of the number 10? Six penalties and trademark drop goal would say yes but with other, younger fly halves in similar form would it be an unnecessary blast from the past?

Verdict: Waiting nervously by the phone

Paul O’Connell

There is much excitement surrounding the Lions squad about the young talent looking to make its mark. However, this weekend certainly showed that there is little substitute for experience. It may well be about finding the perfect blend but one stalwart looking to reinstate his presence in Gatland’s plans is Paul O’Connell. The second row was instrumental in Munster’s victory. He was a devastating presence at the breakdown and indomitable at the line out, despite his recent return from back surgery. It was a performance that prompted a perhaps slightly hyperbolic statement from Connor O’Shea, proclaiming he is “arguably the greatest Ireland lock ever”. Seems to be a good enough reason for him not to miss out on his third tour, wouldn’t you say?

Verdict: In the departures lounge

Owen Farrell

Farrell may well have cemented his place on the Lions Tour after his performance this weekend. It was a tale of young and old as Farrell provided the perfect comparison to what was happening in the south of France. The young fly-half is becoming one of the most consistent performers in the northern hemisphere and five more penalties to help Saracens into the semi-finals is testament to this. However, he is not the most exciting performer – a good decision-maker no doubt, but there is little flair to his game. The question remains whether Gatland will opt for a calm and assured head to be consistent with the boot, or someone to unlock the door with a moment of magic.

Verdict: In the departures lounge

Lee Byrne

Clermont Auvergne made swift work of Montpellier this weekend to set up the tantalising prospect of a semi-final with Munster. One of the undeniable benefits of the Heineken cup is that is brings players such as Lee Byrne back into the foreground. The Clermont Auvergne full-back, now 32, is only an outside bet for the Lions tour but has obvious quality. His part in the successful run his team are on will not go unnoticed. Nevertheless, he will have a hard job in displacing Leigh Halfpenny, with whom he lost the battle for the Welsh international jersey. However, his team’s progress has provided a timely reminder of the full back’s ability.

Verdict: Planning his summer holidays

By Jono Frank

12 thoughts on “Lions Scout Notes: April 10th

  1. You already have an article on wilko’s involvement, farrell will definitely go. As will O Connell almost certainly. I think Lee Byrne is an interesting choice but a no hoper really with the strength at full back

    Another I might suggest:
    Never really a fan but I thought Brad Barrit was very good at the weekend.
    Peter O Mahoney was class and may be an outside shout.
    Vunipola could be a very good third loosehead (is there room?)
    Ian Henderson was excellent but this tour may be one too early.

    No welsh or scottish players on show really so…

    1. gatland seemed to suggest we will see 6 props, so there will be (i presume) 3 looseheads and 3 tightheads

      loosehead wise we can probably assume that Jenkins and Healy will travel. the 3rd spot could be up for grabs by Grant, Vunipola or even a fit again Corbisero (out and out scrummager). Jenkins is a pretty decent scrummager, it is the weaker part for Healy, so i think that could be what counts against Mako, as they may want a clear scrummager.

      Tighthead wise we are probably still safe in assuming jones and cole will go. the 3rd spot is probably going to go to either Murray or Ross. Both of whom are strong in the scrum, but not huge round the field. for balance i would have jones start the tests, whichever of murray or ross start the midweek, and have cole as bench cover in both games to come on.

  2. Well with Willie John McBride figuring in that list of Irish locks slightly hyperbolic is a bit of an understatement .Not that Connell did himself any harm in the Lions sweepstakes but he’d have to go some way to beat the old pipe smoker.

  3. I’m still not convinced about Farrell at the highest levels. His composure in the tough six nations games went missing. Does he have it, perhaps he’s too young for this sized stage?

    1. He can definitely handle the pressure. he won the premiership starting at 10 in his first season and a heineken quarter final is hardly just one game among many. he was there for the NZ match too… all pretty good games where he has stood out.

  4. Any thoughts on young Wade making the trip and potentially the starting 15? He is one of very few capable of doing to Ioane what Robinson did to Latham last time out in Aus. A one on one stepper in a Lions shirt what we all want to see. No?

    1. Updik, I didnt buy into the idea of wade going until this weekend. Possibly I havent seen enough of him. But he seems to be exactly the type of raw talent that the lions thought they were getting when they brought keith earls last time.

      If there are 8 fbs and wings going: Halfpenny, Hogg, Kearney/maitland, Bowe, Zebo, north, cuthbert, wade?
      Harsh on visser I know.

      1. i think if Gatlnd sticks to the tradition of taking an uncapped player, then we would be in with a good chance of seeing Wade.

        With all the new regiemes and injury problems that we have seen recently there have been a huge number of new caps in the last couple of years, so i dont know if there are many uncapped players putting their hands up enough to overlook wade.

        plus with Hogg being pretty versatile (fb, wing, 13) zebo being able to play 15, bowe possibly able to cover 13 and brown maybe being a tourist, we should be taking a few proven wingers (and finishers) and we all know that wade falls into that category. the question is, is the possibly reward going to be enough to leave out any of the current wingers?

        i think wade’s inclusion will hinge on if gatland choses to take an uncapped player, as the only other uncapped player (that isnt a wing) who could merit inclusion is probably Billy Vunipola.

  5. Could you possibly set up a lions squad poll with also the option to select bolters??
    It would be quite interesting to see what everyone thinks.


    1. Hi mate I believe we are going to nearer the time. I’ll pass it on though in case Jamie doesn’t see this

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