Two tries and another 100% kicking display against the Waratahs proved just how key a cog Halfpenny is in the Lions machine. He will have been doing minimal training this week to ensure he is fit and ready to go at the weekend – to lose him to injury now would be the cruelest of blows.
Jon Davies’ performance against the Waratahs was a thing of beauty. With such a complete performance he has soothed fears that the Lions’ centre partnership would be sub-par should Roberts and Tuilagi fail to recover from injury. If either is fit they will likely start, but Lions fans and management alike will now be happy that Davies is a more than capable replacement.
It is a straight shoot-out between Hibbard and Youngs for the test hooker jersey, and while the Welshman came into the tour with most people’s backing, Youngs has been in better form in the red shirt since the tourists touched down in Australia. A 100% record in the line-out against the Waratahs would have been something not many could have foreseen at the beginning of the season when he so struggled with this area of his game, but he has actually looked the most confident and complete line-out thrower of the tour.
Jones thrust himself ahead of the other contenders to partner Paul O’Connell in the engine room with a superb performance against the Waratahs. He is marginally ahead of Geoff Parling, who had a good game off the bench against the Brumbies, but looks set to take the bench spot for the first test.
Much has been made of Best’s line-out woes since yesterday’s disaster against the Brumbies, so it is unsurprising to find him top of the list of those with falling stock. You simply cannot win games when you do not have a solid platform from which to attack – eight line-outs lost is unacceptable at the top level, and barring injury Best will not feature in the test matches.
Gray’s performances have been far from terrible, but they have not been excellent either. Average does not cut it when competing for a test match place, and with both Parling and Jones playing very well in recent performances it is now unlikely the giant Scot will find himself featuring this weekend.
Maitland was one of the bolters of the tour – a man who many believed would excel Down Under, given his knowledge and experience against Super Rugby franchises. Despite being given a fair few opportunities, however, he has failed to grasp his chance and stamp his authority on a position that he could have made his own after Bowe’s injury. Instead he finds certainly Alex Cuthbert and quite possibly Simon Zebo now ahead of him in the pecking order. It is a shame, because on form he is one of the most dangerous finishers around.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43