Lions Test Squad Predictor: Scrum-half

Mike Phillips

Phillips has not seen a great deal of action so far – the majority of the opening game against the Barbarians and a cameo appearance off the bench – which has lead most people to believe he is one of the players Gatland is shielding from injury/overexertion before the first test. With the Kiwi as coach it was always going to be a case of the others having to work hard to displace Phillips, and thus far it hasn’t really happened. A man-of-the-match outing in Hong Kong showcased all of Phillips’ key attributes – abrasiveness, physicality and decent game management – while also laying down a marker for Youngs and Murray to live up to. Question marks remain over the accuracy and speed of his service – particularly when up against the lightening-quick Will Genia – but if it hasn’t been an issue for Gatland until now, it is unlikely to be so for the Lions.

Verdict: probable test starter

Ben Youngs

One of the biggest disappointments so far has been the lack of playing time Youngs and Sexton have had together. The England scrum-half has started just one game, against the Reds, when he partnered Owen Farrell. His game could combine perfectly with Sexton who, like his club and international mate Flood, likes to stand flat and run at the opposition. Allied with Youngs’ arcing runs it is an exciting prospect. It is likely that the plan is to bring Ben Youngs off the bench to torment tired Australian legs, but there is a sense in many parts that up against Will Genia – the best scrum half in the world – Gatland is missing a trick in leaving Youngs on the bench. He is the only scrum-half on tour that even comes close to Genia’s attacking threat around the fringes, while his service is just as snappy and his box-kicking has become as reliable as anyone’s this season. Of the two guys, if you asked the Australians who they would prefer not to face, I suspect the majority would say Youngs.

Verdict: likely to be on the bench

Conor Murray

Murray is the third choice scrum-half, but in all fairness he has played pretty well so far. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to offer anything that Mike Phillips doesn’t, and what he does do well, Phillips seems to do that little bit better. He has been branded a ‘poor man’s Mike Phillips’ in some parts, which is probably a bit unfair but understandable all the same. He has the same physical attributes as Phillips, meaning he is more of a stand and deliver scrum-half and doesn’t have the pace of Youngs. If Phillips starts, Murray cannot be the bench option because he is too similar.

Verdict: not in the test squad

Your turn now – vote for your favoured test scrum-half in the poll below, and explain your choice in the comments section.

Who should start at scrum half in the first test?

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By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

13 thoughts on “Lions Test Squad Predictor: Scrum-half

  1. I voted Youngs on the basis that is asked who I would start. But Phillips will start with Youngs off the bench.

  2. There is an argument that Youngs is a one trick pony and his quick tap and go only works in the turgid English premiership however….. he actually has a better international strike rate than Genia (just)!

    1. there is an argument that Phillips is a one trick pony, and forwards LOVE to smash a running 9.

      I would start youngs. but i dont have too much of an issue with phillips getting the nod. either way round is fine, as long as they get the balance of the two.

      it has to be those 2 for me though. there is no point in bringing Murray on for Phillips, you might as well not waste the bench spot.

    2. I honestly haven’t heard many people say Youngs is a one trick pony? I guess people have but I haven’t heard it. Youngs is far more than a sniper. He has one of the best kicking games of any 9 in the world, he invites and intrigues the back row with his little darts round the fringes and he is a very good decision maker. Mind you, Phillips is pretty good at all those things too.

      The reason I would go Youngs is his kicking game, as I think it would be very useful in the game plan and it is something that he is far better than Phillips IMO.

      1. Not a view I hold, vague recollection of a proud Welshman (who may be getting multiple votes in for Phillips) using it in a debate in defence of his man.

  3. I didn’t see Wales’ games against Australia in last year’s summer tour. How did Phillips fare against Genia then?

  4. I like Phillips, he has great qualities, however Youngs has always played well against AUS, he broke through for England against AUS.

    I believe Youngs is a better option, for his partnership with Sexton could be great and I think he is a better oponent for Gena.

    Nevertheless, I truely believe Phillips will satrt.

  5. I like Phillips, he’s not a bad player and he’s big and strong and unusual for a 9. Did I hear he started rugby at lock? This brings an interesting game for a scrum half because he can run through tacklers more effectively than most scrum halves (though not through the door in MacDonalds’ apparently). He’s certainly a decent option.

    On the other hand, Youngs’ ability to pull in a tackler and step back in or create a hole and pass it is also very useful, but needs the support of fly-half. He links up well with Toby Flood in that respect and I think it would work nicely with Sexton. It does not work with Owen Farrell.

    It’s not an easy one. I’d personally rather go with Youngs, I think his style of play will be more difficult for the Australians to deal with than the physical method of Phillips. However, I think Gatland will pick Phillips and that’s not necessarily a bad thing

  6. Phillips, not only for his all round game but also his general abrasiveness towards the opposition.

    People stating youngs has outplayed genia and Phillps hasn’t need to get a grip. If that was the criteria, Eoin Reddan should be starting as he was SH when Ireland decimated the aussies. In reality it was the back row that dealt with Genia, not his opposition SH.

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