Lions Scout Notes: March 20th


Mike Brown

A final weekend that England will sooner forget had few outstanding performers. However, Mike Brown throughout the course of the tournament has shown that he is a strong Lions contender. As well as his versatility, he is solid in defence. This is an element that England became progressively reliant upon throughout the course of the tournament and was one of the remaining positive aspects from the humiliation in Cardiff. Although unlikely to have a starting place during the tour the utility back would be a useful addition to the squad.

Verdict – Licking his wounds but wondering where his passport is.

Justin Tipuric

Man of the match in Cardiff, the dynamic number 7 could be the perfect foil for Gatland’s lions. Open-side is likely to be a hotly contested spot but the performance at the weekend will not go unnoticed. A massive presence at the breakdown and working well with Warburton, Tipuric has earned his recognition. His contribution to Wales’ second try was one of the many highlights as Wales put England to the sword to reclaim their Six Nations title. The flanker has stated recently that he is not considering Lions recognition. However, I think the phone may be ringing sooner rather than later.

Verdict – Frantically searching for his passport.

Brian O’Driscoll

Citing hearing aside there is no doubt most rugby fans will be hoping for O’Driscoll to make his final bow for the Lions this summer. Centre is a tricky position to fill and without the likes of the Irish stalwart the three-quarters certainly lacks an element of style and excitement. Age and fitness will be the only things holding him back so assuming he is intact, there are few others who could replace him.

Verdict – In the departures lounge

Tim Visser

The Flying-Dutchman is an undeniable possibility for Lions inclusion following a brilliant tournament for Scotland. A fantastic try that condemned France to the wooden spoon is testament to the winger’s ability, as well as highlighting how much of a weapon the Scottish winger could be. Question marks will of course be raised to his defence and inexperience. Wing is an area with plenty of options but few standout candidates at the moment, so Visser could yet find himself in with a chance of representing the Lions.

Verdict – planning his summer holidays but regularly checking his phone

By Jono Frank

45 thoughts on “Lions Scout Notes: March 20th

  1. The same Mike Brown who missed two crucial tackles, got sold a dummy and lacked the ability to kill off a try scoring chance? Really? Great full back, shouldn’t be on the wing at this level.

    1. Agreed, I’m really struggling to understand why Mike Brown is getting as much recognition as he is. Has been pretty weak for me recently. Above him I’d have North, Cuthbert, Visser, Zebo, Bowe, Maitland, Gilroy. Hell, could even put Halfpenny on the wing and take Hogg/Lee Byrne at fullback. Brown has been weak this tournament, and I’m struggling to see why he’s being considered.

      1. Yeah, I really do not understand how the man who missed crucial tackles on Saturday is being feted for his defence? You only get 2 or 3 of those sorts of essential tackles in a match so to mess up 2 of them and still be rated as excellent in defence?

        I also saw him revert to loud chuntering form on Sat as well – berated his team mates massively when Cuthbert handed him off. It’s never his fault, always someone else’s. Not the character of a Lion.

        1. In fairness to brown, you are always taught to trust the defender inside you, which explains why he was sold the dummy by tipuric, but the problem for brown was that whoever was supposed to be inside can up short. Both of the tackles people are raising are ones where had had been marking players inside, and had to cover over to getting cuthbert.

          Not to mention cuthbert is a probably starter for the lions, and at 6ft6 should have been shot if he hadn’t scored those tries. The fact that brown managed to get over to even attempt these desperation tackles is pretty impressive.

          Oh! And are we also forgetting his outstanding cover to get across and tap tackle north?

          1. Absolutely Simo – to blame him for either of those tries is absurd.

            Not a wing in the world would have stopped the three on one overlap for the first try and very few would not have been done by Tipuric’s excellent play for the second (worth noting that Barritt missed the tackle on tipuric beforehand)

            His stats have been consistently amongst the highest for defenders beaten, clean breaks and metres made and not just for England but in the tournament generally.

            He has been the only England back to look like he may just spark something. And he would have given a scoring pass off Farrell’s kick vs Wales had it not been for a brilliant tackle from Cuthbert.

            And all this whilst being played out of position.

            In his proper position, he is the second best full-back in Britain and Ireland after Ha’penny (regrettably Kearney seems a shadow of what he used to be). Like Ha’penny he cover wing and fullback – useful on a Lions tour.

            Just wish Lancaster would play him at fullback!

            BTW – Brighty your last sentence, unless you had access to exactly what Brown said (did you?)is quite frankly b*ll*cks and just your prejudice against certain players showing

          2. I am not a huge Brown fan, but to blame him for the welsh scores shows a total lack of understanding of the game.

  2. The Lions isn’t a testimonial for BOD. Although not a vintage championship for centres he’s done very very little for 4.5 games, so it’s a pick on reputation/sentimental pick at the moment. I think he needs a couple of big games in the Leinster shirt to cement his place.

    Can’t see Brown being picked ahead of any of the form specialist wingers and he has to be behind 1/2p, Hogg & Kearney.

    1. I thought he was superb against Italy. It is easy to claim he has done nothing when Ireland have been in free fall. I believe he has done as much if not more to deserve his place ahead of tuilagi.

      Tuilagi scored one try (a fluke), hasnn;t got the turnover game that BOD has and i think we all know tuilagi can’t distribute. This has been forgotten as a key aspect of centre play. with north and cuthbert on wings we need a creator in centre not a bosher.

      1. Have to agree about BOD being something different to everyone else on offer.

        Lets be honest as well, he has a brain that is just that bit ahead of everyone else on offer too.
        That pass (you all know which one I am on about) against Wales proved that he is just that fraction of a second faster than everyone else around him. He has something that others do not. It’s why he will go down as a legend, and it’s why even now, he is such an option.

        The BOD of old was more of a finisher, the older BOD is now a creator. Still as influential and important as he always was. The Irish haven’t had the unofficial slogan of “in BOD we trust” for more than a decade for no reason.

      2. I admit Italy Vs Ireland didn’t have my undivided attention, but for the 70 mins he was on the pitch the Itallian centres seemed to have the better of it. On the stats he touched the ball 11 times and gained 4m, it didn’t seem like a vintage performance (though he can’t be a 1 man team either).

        BOD is the greatest NH player of his generation, I think we still get glimpses of his brilliance, but I don’t think he’s the BOD of old. I’m just not sure I see him turning out for the midweek team and I think he needs a couple of huge games for Leinster to show he’s still good enough for the test spot, opportunities for which are not going to be aided by a 3 week ban.

  3. Brown was faced with overlaps for both the tries, so he did well to get anywhere near.

    He has consistently been high up in (if not the top of) metres made and defenders beaten charts for England.

    Given these Lions notes discuss one player from each nation, Mike Brown seems a sensible pick for England after the weekend.

    1. Mike Brown 16 Caps – 0 Tries

      I think he is an excellent fullback, good under the high ball, cannon of a left boot, strong tackler, good (but not electric pace), aggressive at the ruck area, good direct runner, etc

      One thing he isn’t is a lethal finisher, so I don’t think he can be considered as a wing and good as he is as a fullback he has to be behind at least 2 and probably 3 others.

      On the back of the weekend someone like “Dan Cole – nervously waiting by the phone” may have been more appropriate from an England point of view. On the back of the summer tour he was a strong candidate for a world 15, but he’s not had the upper hand in a single scrum battle this 6N. You have to look at the likes of Ross (and Cross and Murray) who may offer a lot less in the ruck but are much less likely to give away scrum penalties on current form.

      1. And yet Matt, Brown has consistently been amongst the top ten try scorers in the Premiership for the last four or five years – not a list Goode is ever seen on

        This would suggest that its England doing something wrong rather than Brown

        1. Agree he’s got a decent strike rate for Quins from fullback, but I couldn’t justify picking him as a wing for the lions over someone that scores tries on the wing.

          It’s then a debate as to whether he should go as a 15. I think he’s in contention if they take 3 specialists, but personally I would rank them in the order of 1/2p, Hogg, Kearney, Brown …….. some considerable distance ………. Goode.

          1. I don’t think Kearney was very good this 6 nations. Hogg was good on occassion but I question his defence

            So for me Ha’penny, Brown, Hogg, Kearney

          2. I think his ability to play wing is just a bonus. He will most likely be seen as a 15.
            Lets also keep in mind that Hogg can play 15, wing and 13. It is highly likely that we could see Brown and Hogg together in the midweek team. Hogg could work quite nicely with a big fella like Roberts or Manu in the centres.

            Although there are a number of options for wing, I don’t think too many have made themselves real standouts (North, Cuthbert and Zebo excluded). If we fail to get a fit Bowe, then I would probably go with 4 fullbacks (Halfpenny, Kearney, Hogg, Brown) all of whom have played test rugby on the wing at one point or another. And with Hogg’s finishing ability, he could be a pretty decent call.

          3. Agree Kearney has been poor, I’ve put him in 3rd more down to his performances in a blue shirt than a green one. Hogg was keeping 1/2p out of team of the week for a few rounds so think he had an exceptional championship and deserves to go.

            Wood and Brown have had their lions chances severely damaged by being picked out of position. I had Wood a slam dunk certainty for being a tourist, but I think he’s at risk of missing out as well now.

          4. Matt, I get your points regarding Wood and Brown. But I do think that Gatkand will look past it.

            Take wood for example. Even when he was playing 8, you could see that he is still an exceptional 6. The majority of jobs an 8 does were taken on by robshaw, allowing wood to just be him. Sure he didn’t light the world up with huge carries, but he never does. Wood is a dark arts master, and that was no different with him at 8. He was also lucky enough to get a bit of a show at 6.

            In my mind (and being English I may be a bit biased) but Wood is the first option at 6. With guys like Ferris and Lydiate being out, wood is the best 6 around.

            Guys like O’Brien, Robshaw and Watburton could do a good job there, but none of them hit as many rucks as wood does. You need a guy like him to free the other backrowers up to run free and carry. Wood and O’Brien would compliment each other perfectly.

            My lions backrow at the moment would probably be 6. Wood, 7. Warburton 8. SOB. I would probably have Tipuric on the bench, and then Robshaw, Faletau and maybe Brown in the midweekers. (That will probably all change in about 20 mins…)

          5. I hope he still makes the cut but on the performances of the last few weeks all of the following have played better (not in any order)
            – Tips
            – Warburton
            – Jones
            – Robshaw
            – Brown
            – SOB

            So for me he’s just squeaking in as the 7th flanker (assuming the top 2 6s from 2012 of Lydiate and Ferris don’t get enough rugby to force their way in). Much as I’m a fan of Wood it is hard to look past people playing really well in position for someone playing indifferently out of position. Nothing he’s done at 8 has enhanced his credentials.

    2. Agreed Rodgers. There seems to be a general lack of understanding around defence on the wing where Mike Brown is concerned. The fact is that he did really well to even maintain a position to be tarred with the “missed tackle” brush. Many wings (Ashton for example) would have become either sucked in and not taken the blame just because there was an overlap, or simply got lost in no-mans land (Cuthbert against Ireland).

      To be fair, I think that Tipuric’s play was no less skillful than O’Driscoll’s.

    3. Agree with Rodgers and Blub here.

      Also great point bringing up the Cuthbert vs Ireland situation. The fact was that Alex was so lost that he didn’t even end up making an attempt to tackle anyone. Brown moved from defending one player across to the other. He was then handed off by a player with a much greater reach than he.

      It was exceptional defence from brown to even lay a finger on Cuthbert, the reality was that it was also outstanding finishing from the big winger!

  4. For me Visser’s defence is a bit suspect. For a big guy he really doesn’t seem willing to get stuck in like some of the other wingers. Id’ rather have Zebo on the left wing as he can create something from nothing, but Visser needs a lot of space in front of him. North is the front runner for left wing, but I would have Zebo on the bench.

  5. Without doubt Tipuric was MOTM and his presence, pace, ball skills and awareness of space aided in Cuthbert’s second try, but where’s the praise for Warburton’s part in this try. His awareness of space, who was in front of him, (heads up Rugby) his pace (left Robshaw for dead) and then what a glorious ‘Maori’ sidestep to setup the going forward ruck, at pace, to create the opportunity for the quick ball to reach Cuthbert for that magnificent 2nd try. Has to be on the plane.

    1. It was brilliant, but does it make up for his many poor performances prior to this game?

      If he kicks on now and consistently plays like this for his club, then absolutely he should be on plane

  6. I’d love a bolter to go like Christian wade or Harry robinson or Eli walker. I’m totally converted now that rugby will begin moving away from the smash, bang wallop of giants and move towards the subtlety of speed and agility. Just watch the chiefs playing in super rugby. They’re immense and by no means giants.

  7. And would you want someone as slow as brown playing fullback when it’s likely the lions won’t have the quickest of centre partnerships. Stuart Hogg is a lightning quick strike runner. He gets my vote to start.

  8. People keep commenting on brown being slow… I think that this is a bit of an outdated comment about brown. In recent months we have seen him step and go outside of a handful of international wingers. The best example was his little step and outpace if Cory Jane in the NZ game. (Something which he has done a few times to other wings since). And let’s not forget, Jane made his name as a 7’s player…

    1. Completely agree with you on this one. At the beginning of the season down at Quins this year it was revealed after pre season tests that Brown was the quickest player in their squad. And this is the free flowing premiership champions so no mean feat.

      Saying that, Brown is a full back and should play their for England. If he was given the chance to play there in the Six Nations he may have been competing with the likes for Hogg and Halfpenny, but not now.

      Also wanted to back up earlier points about Browns defending. It shows a real lack of understand of how to defend out wide if you think that Brown was wrong there.

      1. Jacob, if you are right about brown (not saying you aren’t) then that is hugely impressive! They have people like Lindsay-Hauge, Chisholm and Monye! Those are some seriously fast players.

        Also huge credit to brown, all his sprint training has come out of his own time and pocket. That is the sign of a guy who truly wants to be the best he can.

        1. Yes that is definitely true. I was surprised when I heard but apparently he had spent the whole summer doing sprint training.

          1. I knew he had been doing sprints. He does training with Margot Wells in his own time. (Pays for it out of his own pocket too).

            Very impressive of him, both his improvement and his attitude towards bettering himself.

    2. He didn’t really outgas cory jane. He turned him and had a head start. There’s a difference. I can start pulling all the footage from YouTube of brown being turned inside out or gassed by real wingers and flyers? I’ve got a favourite where Christian wade turned him inside out inside of a metre and he falls on his face trying to tackle air. That’s the sort of speed I’m on about. Plus he’s a greedy, greedy player. He never looks to pass and always tries to go himself. He could have set up Ashton in the Italy game but decided to try to take on two defenders and got tackled. Need a fullback to be selfless.

      1. James, it is a skill to beat a man and go outside him. There is no doubting that wade has that skill in abundance. It’s why people say he is like Robinson, because he can beat a man in a phone box. And the sort of speed you are on about is possessed by about 5 players in world rugby.

        No doubt that brown is a fullback, and not a winger. But to say that he is slow is simply an outdated comment.

        Oh and to being up him not passing to Ashton and blowing a scoring chance. He DID throw the pass against Wales, and cuthbert’s had hit it, blowing a scoring chance. We can pick examples of when any player has or hasn’t given a pass that they should have. Clearly you have a prejudice against brown, but in my opinion you are being a bit overly critical of him.

  9. Without doubt Christian Wade is a very exciting prospect. I wouldn’t be unhappy (though I would be surprised) if he goes with the Lions.

    However, whilst there seems to be much support for him to be picked, probably more so in White than in Red at the moment, he is not a great defender.

    Much is made of Browns (erroneously) and Ashtons (with some merit) defence through the 6N, but with all due respect to Christian Wade, he is not up to their defensive standard – yet.

    Some may suggest that his attacking strengths could counter-balance this but at international level it simply is not possible. You can hide a weak/inconsistent tackling 10 or 9 (to an extent) but not an outside back.

    1. Mind you, and I’m not stating that Wade is as good, but people made exactly the same comments about Robinson when he was first picked for England

    2. I am not sure what Brown could have done at Cuthbert to stop him. Barrit’s attempted tackle was more telling. I am Irish and I have been sceptical of Brown’s ability for some time. But I must be honest he has impressed me this six nations and the stats did not lie. He must be high up on most ground gained.

      I think he was englands most dangerous back. Definitely better than the over hyped tuilagi.

  10. There is a danger of reading too much in to the odd performance during the 6 nations when it comes to the Lions Tour Party.

    Firstly, there are players being played out of position (Brown, Wood, Robshaw, O’Brien, Warburton)

    Secondly, Gatland will have his own ideas on how he wants to play, which will not necessarily suit some of those who have played for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales in their particular styles.

    Thirdly, with the exception of the closed roof game, the conditions do not represent in any way, the conditions they will encounter in Australia.

    Fourthly, no 6N team plays in a manner anything like how Australia play.

    Lastly, there are a lot of players who did not appear, or appeared very fleetingly during the 6 nations but who may well come into the reckoning. Off the top of my head, and for various reasons;
    Lydiate, Ferris, Morgan, O’Connell, Wilkinson, Sheridan, Foden, Armitage(s), Delve, Corbisiero, Bowe etc, etc

    I am not saying that all of these should go, or even any of them, but they will come into the reckoning – with many others no doubt.

    1. I read somewhere that gatland has already decided the type of game that he wants to play.

      Also, excluding injuries and loss of form, he seems to have 2/3 of his squad pencilled in.

      He said he wants a big, but mobile pack. Another key aspect that he said is he wants the ball to be moved around by the backs.

      I know I have mentioned before that I think he could see 12Ts as a star, but this could be a hint of him as a bolter to the tour.

      One thing that all of the home nations seem to lack at the moment is a creative centre (excluding BOD). Not only does 36 tick that box, but being a big lad will mean that he appeals to gatland too. I highly doubt we will see combinations of guys like Roberts and Tuilagi. Especially if halfpenny is the 15. No disrespect to halfpenny, but he isn’t a “creator” like we saw Goode do against Fiji (NOT SUGGESTING GOODE GOES!!!!). So the creativity will have to come in the midfield. Therefore I would say that BOD is a sure thing, and someone like twelvetrees could be taken as a bit of a gamble.

      1. Simo, There are plenty of creative centres in the home nations.

        The problem is that they don’t break in to the national sides. Perhaps, they’re just not good enough at the highest level?

        Or perhaps, coaches outside of the Antipodies, would rather go for muscle. A whole different argument here of course, but with relevance to this thread I guess there is plenty of scope for a bolter to come in this position.

        12T is a good shout.

      2. Gatland says; “he wants a big, but mobile pack. Another key aspect that he said is he wants the ball to be moved around by the backs.”

        I hadn’t read this, but really, he is not giving too much away is her :-)

        Isn’t this what everyone wants to see, with every team?

        Rather than “I want my Lions team to mirror the England team of the late 80s/early 90s, built around a big kicker and a big pack”

        1. Agree that we do have creative centres, but like you say, no one is picking them.

          Also I agree with the point that what gatland said is nothing new. But the level of how much he was “revealing” will become more evident with how much he was telling the truth. When SL first started with England he said he wanted a big passing 12, but we have since seen that that hasn’t been the case.

          Totally agree with you that 12Ts is a great option. And a possible bolter for the lions.
          As I have said before, his ability and his size make him a potential super star, and someone who may really appeal to gatland.

      3. im sorry did i read right,,, goode was a creator against fiji???
        what about the rest of the games hes played 15 at and created jack sh1te??
        come on simo, if your going to compare atleast comapre on the same tournements and not use a game from autumn to make a case as he played crap all 6 nations
        JUST LOL
        oops sorry it wasnt goode playing crap it was the refs

        1. Rob, do you even bother to read posts? I used the single example of the Fiji game as an example of a “creative fullback” and how that means you don’t need a creative centre.

          The whole point of the post was about how there are NO decent creative fullbacks (because Goode is a: not creative enough and b: not good enough) so we will need a creative centre…

  11. If I were to pick a team to play against the Wallabies tomorrow then it would be:

    1. C. Healy
    2. R. Hibbard
    3. A. Jones
    4. G. Parling
    5. A. W. Jones
    6. C. Robshaw
    7. S. Warbuton / J. Tupiric
    8. T. Faletau

    9. M. Phillips
    10. J. Sexton
    11. J. North
    12. M. Tuilagi
    13. B. O’Driscoll / J. Davies
    14. A. Cuthbert
    15. L. Halfpenny

    16. R. Best
    17. G. Jenkins
    18. D. Cole
    19. J. Launchbury
    20. S. O’Brien
    21. B. Youngs
    22. O. Farrell
    23. S. Hogg

    1. Agree with that team totally.

      My only possible change would be to not have a /Davies next to BOD. I think JD and Manu would ultimately be too similar to play in the centres together (and not experienced enough together to warrant the one-dimensional play). Having said this, I agree with BOD.

      But otherwise I think that would be exactly my team.

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