Lions Scout Notes: May 5th

With the squad now announced, our scout notes obviously take on a different feel. For the last few weeks of the season, we’ll consider those selected and who might be playing themselves in or out of contention for the test team.

Dylan Hartley

The selection for the front row certainly raised a few eyebrows with its inclusion of Matt Stevens. However, another name that some weren’t expecting was Dylan Hartley. Having lost his place in the England starting team to Tom Youngs, it came as a slight surprise to see him on Warren Gatland’s list.

Despite being on the losing side last weekend, Hartley’s role in Northampton’s impressive fight-back certainly provided some justification to his call-up. A well taken try was typical of the hooker’s ‘aggressive edge’ that Gatland admires so much. The Kiwi-born Englishman will have to work hard to displace Hibbard from a starting role against Australia, but he is accurate from the line out as well as energetic and aggressive. He is certainly an interesting inclusion to a squad that has stirred up some debate.

Rob Kearney

The Leinster man helps to complete an impressive set of full-backs. The trio possess the versatility, pace and power needed for the rigours of the campaign as well as the solid technical ability needed for full-back. With Leigh Halfpenny taking centre stage during the Six Nations, Kearney and Hogg may find themselves waiting in the wings in more than one sense of the word.

With fierce competition some big performances are going to be required. The Irishman certainly didn’t do his chances of a starting berth any harm with two well-taken tries last weekend. Furthermore, his experience will be vital for helping first time flyer Stuart Hogg and his Welsh counterpart Halfpenny, who will be praying for better luck with injury than 2009.

Dan Lydiate

The omission of Chris Robshaw has sparked heated debate, seeing as the England captain has been in fine form and with Dan Lydiate just returning from injury and missing the Six Nations, the decision smelt a little of Welsh bias. However, one thing that can be said of 6, 7 and 8 is that there is plenty of pace and energy – Tom Croft’s inclusion being testament to this and Warren Gatland’s game plan of taking Australia on up front.

Lydiate is certainly no slouch either and he was integral to his team’s fight-back this weekend, as his side’s second half performance had Edinburgh rapidly back-peddling. The flanker raced over with a try and produced another perpetually energetic performance.

By Jono Frank

10 thoughts on “Lions Scout Notes: May 5th

  1. if on form (and keeping their discipline) then these 3 could be excellent choices for the tour.

    sure, there are guys left at home who havent done anything wrong. but on their day, these 3 have all proved themselves. At one point Hartley seemed a definite contender for the lions test shirt (admittedly it was a while a go), but if he can bring his top form, then he will challenge the others.

    Lydiate is a huge player who makes a big impact. as long as he can show his 2011 form, then his inclusion is entirely justified.

    With england resting robshaw (if the reports are to be believed) then i am not surprised the lions have gone for Croft and Lydiate, over a tired Robshaw. I do still think that Wood was unlucky to miss out, and O’Mahony and K. Brown definitely didnt do anything wrong either.

    Kearney is a class act. if he gets his a-game going, then there is no guarantees at 15 (or wing for that matter).

    I just hope that everyone can hit form on this tour, because the Aussies all seem to be doing it.

  2. Also of note: Hogg played at 10 when he came on for Glasgow (only for about 15 mins) Lions back-up in mind? Didn’t get the chance to really rate him in this position but he kicked well – got one in from the touchline.

    1. thats good news that he had a bit of a run out. nice of Glasgow to let him have a run.

      the fact that you didnt have time to rate him can be seen as good and bad. obviously we dont know if he is really good there, but he obviously wasnt awful, otherwise you would be saying that…

  3. I honestly believe all three of these have a very good chance of being involved in some test action. Kearney has been there and done it, Hartley is the most experience hooker on tour, and a real leader. He also strikes me as the kind of player, with the kind of attitude that WG will like, and can see them getting on well. And for me, when fit, Lydiate is as good as any 6 in the world.

  4. Another front rower who is on blistering form is Mako Vunipola. Another try at the weekend and an outrageous offload which was marginally forward (I’ve seen them given before), helped Sarries to their 4th Premiership semi final in a row. 3 tries in 16 appearances this season is a stat a lot of players would envy, let alone props. Jenkins has the experience, Healy has the aggression, but Vunipola has the X factor, and that’s why Gatland chose him.

    1. I agree, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he takes the test bench spot. As you say, he brings something that non of the others have, and showed at the weekend how dangerous he can be near the line.

  5. Seems that despite Hartley losing some favour with England he still has a lot to offer. His natural leadership ability could see him become a key member of this Lions squad.

    1. Think Barnes is confusing too largely separate, though not mutually exclusive, issues: i)Selection; ii)Game plan. “There a lot of Welsh selected, Gatland’s Wales keep losing to Australia, therefore there are too many Welsh” is flawed logic.

      Think he’s right to suggest that “Gatland rugby” may not be the way to win as it hasn’t won where other nations have. If we don’t win the first test we are in big trouble it looks like we are going to play one way and one way only. The one big variable is Sexton, Gatland rugby with Sexton at 10 is going to create a lot more opportunities for the big power runners to be put through, so him staying fit and playing well are critical in my opinion.

      When it comes to selection, have we picked the best players? 13 of the 15 Welsh are slam dunk inclusions (personally I would say 14 including Ian Evans but I know not everyone is a fan) for the touring party. Only Lydiate sits outside of that, I don’t think he’s been done a special favour, they have taken a risk on him because if they can get him back to his best he is brilliant, probably the best fringe defence man in world rugby. A similar risk seems to have been taken with Gray to see if they can build him back to his best over the tour. The questions on selection should be more around can we mix it up a bit if plan A doesn’t work? We’ve got some decent variation in the forwards with the likes of Vunipola, Youngs and Croft. But I think we lack variety in the backs. Hook/36 over Kearney, Laidlaw over Murray and Zebo/Wade over Maitland (Or Bowe) would have given us a few more options and more 10 cover.

      As far as Barnes goes …. leave the negative articles to the Aussies, write articles on how we can win and articles on the disarray the Aussie camp are in please, not articles that are aimed at creating fault lines and doubt in our own team!

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