The unluckiest man on tour. Looks unlikely to usurp Jamie Heaslip from the test starting line-up and with the need for cover at flanker, there probably won’t be room for him on the bench either. This is all despite putting in a series of storming performances for the ‘midweek’ side – on Tuesday again he tackled and carried like a man possessed. It seems the Irishman’s 2009 experience is invaluable in Gatland’s eyes, but it’s getting to the point where you have to ask – what more does Faletau have to do?
A bit of an obvious one really. His try in the first test was a joy to behold; an instant Lions classic that will grace the highlight reels for years to come and go down in history as one of the best ever scored in the famous red shirt. North has had a brilliant tour, and his battle with Folau over the next two tests will be epic.
Youngs’ stock continues to rise, after he put in one of the performances of his life on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium. The diminutive Leicester hooker was everywhere, smashing rucks and Wallaby attackers alike, as well as getting his hands on the ball and making good metres. And on top of all that his line-out was faultless, although fans will want to see a bit more adventure in the second test.
Farrell’s performance against the Rebels was as excellent as it was surprising. Fans of the Northern Hemisphere game will know that he is not exactly revered for his adventurous style of play, and yet here he was standing flat and fizzing away passes – even taking quick tap penalties. It begs the question: why have we not seen this side of his game more often? Either way, he more than consolidated his position on the test bench.
The big Welsh scrum-half was one of the few Lions to leave Brisbane with his reputation worsened. He was ponderous at the back of rucks and mauls, and was effectively played out of the game by Aussie debutant Ben Mowen. He was at fault for allowing Genia so much room in the build up to the first Folau try, and generally looked ill at ease. Gatland probably won’t drop him, but Ben Youngs must be pushing very hard, especially after another strong showing off the bench against the Rebels.
The first test seemed to bring everything to a head for Cole. Until a few months ago he was neck-and-neck with Adam Jones for the starting shirt – then Cardiff happened, and now when you add in the capitulation of the scrum at the weekend after he had come on, it seems he is streets behind the fuzzy-haired Welshman. The scrum issus are, of course, not entirely his fault, but there will be some concerned faces amongst the coaching staff.
A bit of a strange one this, given that he scored a well-taken try in the first test. He also, however, dropped a clanger of a high-ball and was caught out positionally a couple of times. It was by no means a bad performance, but the greatest reason why his stock is falling is the return to fitness of Tommy Bowe. The Bowe-North partnership has looked lethal in the short time it has had to gel, and if the Irishman is ready for the second test he will almost certainly play. Sadly, and a little unfairly, for Cuthbert, he could drop out of the squad all together.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43