Lions Test Squad Predictor: Fly-half

Owen Farrell

There were claims from many corners that Farrell would prove a liability in Australia after his minor dust up with Schalk Brits in the game against the Barbarians, but he redeemed himself well with an impressive performance against the Queensland Reds. Farrell looked to lack composure at times against the Barbarians, but his first game nerves looked well and truly gone a week later against the Reds, showing improved distribution, decision making and ball carrying. Coupled with his known qualities – highly accurate goal kicking and ferocious defence – the Lions have themselves a useful option from the bench. His performance against the Reds wasn’t perfect, and a couple of kicks from hand were poorly judged, but criticism of him being an ‘unworthy Lion’ are very far off the mark.

Verdict: in the test match squad.

Jonathan Sexton

Barring a tour-ending injury, Sexton is the nailed on test match fly-half. His distribution skills and decision making are a significant upgrade on Farrell’s (and Hogg’s) and with Leigh Halfpenny an almost certain starter too, and therefore the Lions’ goal kicker, any worries over the inconsistency of Sexton’s boot in comparison to Farrell’s will likely be laid to rest. He was almost faultless against Western Force, and then performed well after coming off the bench against the Reds, finding holes against a defensively strong centre pairing of Anthony Fainga’a and Ben Tapuai. Outside of injury ruining his chances, it would take a drop in form of cataclysmic proportions now to deny Sexton the 10 jersey when the Lions travel to Suncorp Stadium for the first test against the Wallabies.

Verdict: nailed on test match starter.

Over to you – vote in the pole below, choosing your test match fly-half, then leave any justifications/comments below.

Who should start at fly-half in the first test?

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by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

27 thoughts on “Lions Test Squad Predictor: Fly-half

  1. Sexton easily has the better attacking nouse and distribution that fits Gatland’s move it wide and attack gameplan which is massively lacking from Farrell at the minute. He’s also a much better runner

  2. Even easier than picking full back and scrum half. There is only one genuine option, the situation has been the same all year.

      1. agree with brighty here, by far the easiest decision.

        MadDog, are you suggesting that 7 and 9 are easy ones too?

          1. If you think SH and 7 are done deals, I don’t know what you’ve been watching. 2 viable options at SH, both offering different games. I have Youngs and Phillips level pegging so far on tour. I think Gats will go with Phillips, but certainly not a done deal.

            Same comments with Warburton. He’s only the second best Welsh 7 on tour, and this comes from someone who spent most of the 6N saying I didn’t think Tipuric had the physical game to be a starter. I have eaten my hat by the way! The only reason that Warburton is even in the discussion is because Gats had too much sun and made him captain before the tour.

          2. Glad Staggy said it, so I didn’t have to.

            There is no way that 7 is a done deal. And if it is, it ain’t Warburton who deserves the shirt.

            I can understand the thinking behind saying 9 is a done deal. It’s why I asked, as I was surprised that 7 was in the same category as 9.

            Personally I agree with Staggy, I have two players (Youngs and Phillips) level pegging it at the moment. But there is no point in pretending that we think Gatland will start youngs in the 1st test. It will be Phillips. And in fairness to the lad, it’s not like he has under performed, so I won’t have problems with it.

            I will however have problems with Watburton, especially if he has another underwhelming game.

            I think he has to play against the Tahs. If he is outdone by their 7 (I am assuming it will be McCutcheon) then we know he isn’t up to the task, as the Tahs’ first choice 7 (excluding the injured) is a starter over McCutcheon…

            The lions captain is yet to impress.

  3. Farrell is not the best 10 at Saracens and nowhere near the best 10 in England. Someone remind me why he’s with the Lions again?

    1. Because he has started as first choice for Saracens and England all year, and been the second best option the Lions had available to them.

      I will point out I’m not a Farrell fan at all, just helping answer your questions.

        1. Not at all. Farrell started the Premiership semi, the big Heineken cup group games, both knockout games in the Heineken cup, and all from 10.

          Does that mean I can call you silly now?

          1. spot on Jacob. I am pretty sure i recall a certain Mr Farrell Jr lining up against Wilkinson in the HC semi. After all, its all that any rugby pundit in England had spoken about for the entire week building up!

            Farrell is the No1 choice at Sarries, without a doubt.

          2. You may call me silly. He may be Saracens’ 10, but not ‘without a doubt’. Hodgson, without a doubt, has an infinitely more expansive attacking game. Sarries rely on their pack bossing, so only need someone sat behind the back to kick for territory. When their pack isn’t bossing (like against Saints), it’s a different kettle of fish…

          3. Alex, it’s very easy to find a situation where you can disprove something.

            For example yours – Farrell is best suited when their forwards are dominating, but not when they aren’t.

            Another example – dan carter is the best fly half in the world, but when he plays badly, he isn’t.

            Sarries go-to gameplan is to get forward dominance (your words, not mine). And as you also pointed out Farrell suits that style better than Charlie. Ergo, Farrell is the first choice 10 at sarries for their plan a gameplan.

            Seeing as plan a is always first choice, it would seem pretty logical to say that Farrell is, without doubt, the first choice 10 at sarries.

          4. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying that ‘without a doubt’ is a little strong. Their game plan implies that Farrell is playing there to get game time as he is young and that by getting more game-time, he’s magically going to change into a natural fly-half. Hodgson is in his twilight years. The fact that, when Sarries were losing in the final of the Aviva, Hodgson was brought on to try and steady the ship and inject some dynamism into the back line implies that they don’t see Farrell as a nailed on starter.

            If Hodgson were younger and the media hadn’t sensationalised Farrell to the point where it makes me want to break down and cry, there would be no question of who would start.

  4. This is almost a pointless poll. What two people thought it was funny to put Farrell? Come on, own up…

    1. I put it down to some of the girls who fancy him and therefore blindly support him and defend him no matter what.

    1. Agree, without a doubt.

      Farrell is yet another so average player who can practice kicking until the sun goes down, this is not talent just dedication, not that this is a bad quality, but it isn’t enough at this level.

      I hope Twelvetrees gets a shot, I wanted him on the tour and he has the skills and the attitude to really do things.

  5. Farell definitely warrants his place on the tour, I agree that he is not yet in the same class as Sexton- however any suggestion that he is behind 12T’s and Hogg in the pecking order is definite nonsense

  6. Staggy, Simo, nothing to do with what games, and I have watched them all, its to with Gat’s mind set, game he wants to play and who he wants on the bench. Thats why I think he will start with those I have named which means Tip on the bench with Youngs

    1. OK – fair point. If you are saying that in Gats mind the SH and 7 spots are done deals, then so be it. However firstly that would make my opinion of Gatland go down a fair way as he’s picking his boy over Tips (Phillips and Youngs level pegging so happy with coaches decision on that one), and secondly the question being asked is who “should” start at each position, not who “will” start.

      Also no way Tips is on the bench as it will be the loser of the 6 battle, ie Croft or SoB.

      Personally Tips at 7, SoB at 6 and Heaslip at 8 (although this latter place still to be won, as first Faletau was ahead then Heaslip pulled away but to my mind close again so one big performance from either could secure the spot).

      1. OK Staggy that’s a fair cop, semantics. Warbuton has only had the one game so it could be argued that trying to present a balanced rationale as to selecting him is floored. I have no issues with your pick of O’Brien and Heaslip; 6 and 8 as this would be my choice. My reason for Tip’s on the bench is simple, 1. covers 7 if Warbuton has to come off, 2. If O’Brien of Heaslip come off the Warbuton fills those and Tips’ plays 7, 3. Great to see him in full flight against tried legs. Brighty stated something of worth in an early blog which I ‘hope’ will come to the fore, “a dip in form is temporary, class is permanent”. Time will tell.

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