Lions Stock Check: Week 4


Toby Faletau
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?

George North
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.

Tom Youngs
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.

Owen Farrell
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.


Mike Phillips
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.

Dan Cole
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.

Alex Cuthbert
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

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20 comments on “Lions Stock Check: Week 4

  1. Cole has been my biggest dissapointment. Although playing over 40 games with no break over 2 yrs is not ideal. Give him a rest.

    Phillips was pretty poor, always though he is overrated. Faletau played v well on Tues as did SOB. Loosehead a bit concerning for Sat…

    Halfpenny; Bowe; BOD; Tuilagi/Davies; North; Sexton; Youngs; Faletau; Warburton; Croft; Parling; AWJ; Jones; Youngs; Vunipola – Grant/Stevens; Cole; Hibbard; Evans; SOB; Phillips; Farrell; Davies/Tuilagi

    • 100% agree with this team. normally people taint their selections with something silly but this is exactly the team id select

      • Looks good to me, but would probably start Davies and bring Tuilagi on after about 50 mins. Just about the last person you’d want to see running at you in the last third of the game

        And Grant on the bench over Stevens

  2. Youngs, Farrell and Tuilagi have come on leaps and bounds this tour since the 6 nations. They’re starting to look like the same players that beat the All Blacks.
    Cole however is clearly just having a mediocre year. His scrummaging is a shadow of what it was against Healy, Steenkamp and Woodcock last year. It’s no coincidence that he had the benefit of Corbisiero for those three tests.

  3. Couldn’t classify Cuthbert as falling stock. Thought he did far more right than wrong last week, actually came looking for work more often than North did. I do agree with Bowe coming straight back in, but don’t think Cuthbert has anything to be ashamed of.

    There are a couple of reasons that, although Heaslip did nothing wrong last week, that Faletau should come in:
    - We are losing POC for Parling, Parling carries very well and covers every blade of grass, but we are losing dynamism round the fringes, which Faletau brings. It wouldn’t surprise me if Parling is higher up in the tackle stats than POC though.
    - Palu was a non event last week, if Smith is fully fit I expect them to pick him. The Wallaby backrow then has a significantly different balance and I think a trio of Crof, Healsip & Warburton will get outworked around the ruck.
    - We struggled to break the gainline, Faletau gives us much more go-forward. E.g. On Tues 36% of the meters made by the pack came from Faletau, on Sat 12% came from Heaslip. Even in the abomination against the Brumbies Faletau accounted from more than 50% of the total meters made by the pack, yes Faletau made more ground than the other 12 forwards that featured combined.

    I’m not suggesting that Heaslip (or Croft) never make a tackle, never hit a ruck and can only carry out wide, just that Faletau does it a lot more often and we will be needing that additional workrate.

    It will take a much better performance to win this week (regardless of who plays at 10), so if we approach it with an “if it ain’t broke” mentality rather than “what’s the very best team we can field” mentality we’ll be heading for a decider!

  4. Spot on Matt. No room for sentiment. The Lions have to deliver a series win .For me Faletau and Bowe start ,along with Ben Youngs,Grant,the rest of the team stays the same.-bench ,Evans, Vunipola, Hibbard, Tuilagi , Phillips, Farrell, SOB, Stevens.On another point ,was Greenwood hinting of a Jamie Roberts return?

  5. Haven’t read everyone’s comments yet, will do shortly.

    Agree with all the above.

    Glad to see that Phillips HAS been dropped, and out if the 23 is a big drop. They have claimed he is “struggling with a knee injury” but I think that’s a cover for his trash performance. Glad youngs gets a chance. I just wish he and Sexton had been given a go in a midweek game, it would have meant they would ease into this match quicker. Oh well, at least we see them now.

    With regards to Cole, I think that he is getting very tired. As we saw with some other players (Launchbury being a key example) they get tired when they have played lots of rugby. I think I read that Cole is the only player to have started EVERY game under Lancaster (obviously not the case now, as he was not in Argentina, but you get the point). And the lack of willingness to play Wilson (which seems a bit odd, as he was great in Argentina) means that Cole regularly plays 70-78 minutes in a test match. Do any other props play this much now-a-days?

    It’s a shame Casto has left tigers, because if I was them I would let Cole have the first month off in the coming season.

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