The Aviva Premiership Final was certainly captivating. Dylan Hartley’s moment of madness slightly tainted what would have otherwise been a fantastic spectacle. Perhaps it was the sense of occasion which got to the now former Lion. One player, however, who remained level headed throughout proceedings and got on with the task at hand was Geoff Parling. The second-row has remained a resolute figure throughout the domestic season and the Six Nations. It is these consistently strong performances that have landed him a place on the plane to Australia. It definitely wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a starting role when the first test match rolls around. His strength in the line-out is second to none and his ability to keep going has been testament to Leicester’s championship-winning campaign.
A second tour for Leinster’s number 8 has been more than justified with his performances this season. Telling contributions in ensuring his side emerged as champions once again have really shown the calibre of the 29-year old. There will be good competition for places within the back-row for a test spot. This is especially the case for the number 8 jersey with Toby Faletau battling Heaslip all the way. The Irishman’s efforts, first against Glasgow and then in the final, have just shaded it for me. He has certainly picked the right time to grab the headlines and although it remains to be seen what happens Down Under, the Leinster man gets my vote when it comes to taking on the Aussies.
The initial omission of the Ulsterman raised quite a few eyebrows. The hooker’s pedigree is undoubted. A strong Six Nations followed by an equally consistent end to the season was only marred by his side losing out to Leinster in the final of the RaboDirect PRO 12. So a cool Irish head replaces a hot English one, and I can only breathe a sigh of relief. Sometimes out with the old and in with the new isn’t the best policy and Dylan Hartley’s moment of madness certainly served to justify this. With Hibbard and Youngs providing strong competition it remains to be seen whether Best can earn a starting spot in the test matches. He is, however, a worthy and important inclusion.
By Jono Frank