It was an interesting performance from Phillips on Saturday in Hong Kong – I was initially frustrated by the mandatory pick-and-go from nearly every ruck, but it ultimately paid dividends. You’d think this is exactly how Warren Gatland would like him to play, and his brace of tries should put him in pole position for the Test jersey.
With Sam Warburton sidelined through injury, Tipuric took his chance in the 7 jersey against the Barbarians. A typically omnipresent performance, he popped up in support of the backs on several occasions, whilst still being a nuisance in defence at the breakdown. It was certainly enough to give Gatland a serious selection headache, even this early on in the tour.
Some immense ball-carrying from SOB will only intensify that selection headache in the back row, and Warburton has a lot to do to prove he’s not the 3rd choice openside. SOB could potentially switch to the blindside, given that he’ll be difficult to leave out on the evidence so far.
A performance that marked him out as a ‘Test match animal’ from Heaslip, with marauding runs in the loose and several deft offloads. May just have edged ahead of Toby Faletau in the competition for the Number 8 jersey, despite some questionable form coming into the tour.
Halfpenny was the first name on the team sheet for many people before the tour, and a flawless display of kicking only enhances his credentials. He slotted several touchline conversions with Neil Jenkins looking on, and was typically solid at the back.
Healy left the field on a stretcher with a potentially tour-ending injury to his ankle. There were mixed reports from the touchline in terms of the severity, but the injury doesn’t look great for the Irish loosehead. Also facing a disciplinary hearing after claims of biting, and now Corbisiero has been flown out his chances of featuring in the tests seem slim.
With so few chances to impress in a Lions jersey, Farrell will be disappointed with his efforts against the Barbarians. Schalk Brits exposed his fiery temper, and then he made several errors that can’t really be tolerated at this level, even considering the difficult handling conditions. He took his try well after coming on against the Force, but it looks as though he’ll spend more time on the bench during the Test series.
Maitland looked hungry for work and showed his pace once or twice, but he made a couple of errors that cost near-certain tries. It is perhaps harsh to include him here, but with chances few and far between for each Lions candidate, has he missed his already?
Best’s line out throwing was pretty poor, which won’t be tolerated in Gatland’s plan to dominate the set piece. Question marks remain over Youngs’ throwing as well, but the Tigers man offers more in the loose than Best.