Potential Lions XV: November 2012

Justin Tipuric

It’s that time of the month again; here is November’s Lions selection. With the dust settling on the opening rounds of the Heineken Cup and Autumn Internationals, what do you think of our latest line up? We’ve donned our hard hats in preparation, so let fly with your thoughts.

1: Cian Healy
As of now it seems to be a straight shoot-out between Jenkins and Healy for the loose head position, and Healy’s form over the past month or so has probably just about lifted himself above the Welshman, who has struggled to start for Toulon. Healy didn’t enjoy the best time against the South Africans at the weekend, but looked strong for Leinster in the Heineken Cup and is never afraid to get involved. Marler and Corbisiero could play themselves into contention with a strong run of form for England, but for now it’s Healy.

2: Richardt Strauss
There’s always a bolter in Lions teams, and Strauss has as much chance as anyone of being that unexpected inclusion. Hooker is not an area of great strength for any the home nations. Ross Ford and Matthew Rees have the experience but rarely look better than average in Scotland and Wales shirts respectively; Hartley and Rory Best have been struggling with injuries recently. If Strauss can nail down the shirt for the AIs and possibly the Six Nations, he has a great shot at being on the plane next summer.

3: Dan Cole
Cole vs Jones seems to be emerging as the battle for the tight head shirt, and with the Welshman suffering injuries and Cole getting better by the game, the Tigers man probably edges it at the moment. Not only is he a ferocious scrummager, he offers a lot at the breakdown and is as good as any prop at winning the ball on the floor.

4: Richie Gray
A poor domestic campaign for Sale has not done the giant Scotsman any favours but Gray has already proven himself as one of the best locks in the business. A huge physical presence with effective marauding runs means Gray is a very strong candidate for the Test XV.

5: Geoff Parling
People will argue that he won’t put the fear into opposition packs, but that’s not why Parling is so vital. With Gray in the other lock position looking to get around the park and cause havoc in the loose, Parling’s lineout prowess will be indispensable. It is this that has made him so key for the Tigers, and he is becoming that way for England too. He’s no slouch in the loose either, with good hands and a high work rate.

6: Chris Robshaw
Robshaw at 6 is a bit of a controversial one, but at the moment injuries dictate that he is the best option. If Lydiate can get fit and find the form he showed in last year’s 6 Nations he will be hard to ignore, while Croft and Ferris have both struggled with injuries over the last year. For now, Robshaw’s leadership qualities and work ethic get him a place in the team. One thing that you can be sure of is that he will give his all for the Lions. He can also cover 7, leaving a bit more flexibility with who gets picked on the bench.

7: Justin Tipuric
The calls for Tipuric can be ignored no longer. Such is Sam Warburton’s fall from grace that he has gone from talismanic captain and first name on the team-sheet, to a man clinging desperately to his starting berth. Tipuric, however, has been in insatiable form for the Ospreys in the RaboDirect and Heineken Cup, and showed enough in 5 minutes off the bench against Argentina at the weekend to suggest he should start. A tough call for Howley et al, but if he gets a run of games at international level he could become the favourite for the Lions no.7 shirt.

8: Toby Faletau
The youngster has a tendency to raise his game on the big stage. Faletau has been consistent for the Dragons this season and offered one of Wales’ few positive performances at the weekend. Provides the all-round package from the back of the scrum.

9: Danny Care
Care’s form over the past month has lifted him above the other contenders for this shirt. His rivalry with Ben Youngs could develop into one of legendary status, and could even be repeated at Lions level if both stay fit. With unstoppable acceleration and an eye for a gap around the fringes, the biggest barrier to his development remains himself: can he stay out of trouble?

10: Jonny Sexton
Eleven years ago the Lions’ fly-halves included Neil Jenkins, Jonny Wilkinson and Ronan O’Gara. It is fair to say that this time around we are not blessed with such depth, but Jonny Sexton offers a deadly boot and marshals the backline better than his competitors.

11: Tim Visser
The Flying Dutchman has been scoring tries for fun in the RaboDirect PRO12. Some questioned whether he would be able to deliver on the international stage and he quietly responded with two tries against the All Blacks. A fine finisher playing with huge amounts of confidence.

12: Manu Tuilagi
His tactical game may not be the finished product but Tuilagi compensates with some of the most devastating charges in world rugby. The youngster has an eye for the try-line and he can be the Lions’ most dangerous asset if provided with the right service.

13: Jonathan Davies
The right centre combination is perhaps the biggest cause for concern in a potential Lions team at the moment. At outside centre, Jon Davies, although struggling with a niggle at the moment, has a solid turn of pace and good hands to go with an awareness of space that is vital when playing with the bruising Tuilagi. To be honest though, this position may come down to who is injury free and playing well at the time of selection – O’Driscoll has been hampered with injuries, but his experience could help out in a position that, with Tuilagi slotting in at 12, doesn’t have anyone head and shoulders above the rest.

14: Chris Ashton
An Ashton/Visser combination on the wings could be deadly. Both arch-finishers with exceptional try scoring rates, if put in space they will score tries. Neither are afraid to go looking for the ball either. Welsh giants North and Cuthbert would have expected to do a lot better against their diminutive Argentinian opponents last weekend, and will have to work hard to get back on top in a position that is bound to leave some high quality players at home.

15: Leigh Halfpenny
Injuries to Kearney and Foden have left Halfpenny as the current frontrunner for the full-back berth. Watch out for Alex Goode, who could put his hand up if given a run of international games, but for now he is too green and it is the Cardiff man in pole position. Strong under the high ball, with rapid acceleration and a booming boot that is invaluable should other kickers have an off day, Halfpenny has all the attributes of a great Lions full-back.

By Jamie Hosie and Nik Simon

46 thoughts on “Potential Lions XV: November 2012

  1. re: Cole, “he offers a lot at the breakdown and is as good as any prop at winning the ball on the floor”. I think you mean as good as any openside?

    When Corbisiero gets a run of games he’ll be favourite to start ahead of Healy, fantastic player. Corbs and Cole could destroy the Aussies up front. Are we still seriously considering Jenkins? It’s not 2008 anymore.

    1. No, I don’t think he’s as good as open sides – I meant he is one of the best props in the world at breakdown work. He’s good for a prop, but certainly not in the league of McCaw or Pocock.

  2. It’s a shame the amount of injuries in all the nations at the moment. On return to fitness I do expect to see Rory Best, and maybe Stephen Ferris. Tom Visser has selected himself after the All Blacks game. There is a huge amount of Big Names not playing well for club or Country. Look out for young Iain Henderson, epic for Ulster and certainly a shoe in for Ireland in coming years.

  3. I found myself agreeing with almost every selection. Obviously a lot can happen between now and then; with many top class players needing to come back from injury. I have a feeling we could see an all English front row of Corbs, Hartley and Cole. This really would surprise me at all!

    Also would be surprised is Roberts didn’t play 12 on the Lions tour. Potentially with Tuilagi outside him?

  4. Interesting that only Cole, Tuilagi, Care and Faletau have retained their spots… it’s certain that the team will be constantly changing up to the tour! For now, that’s probably the best team at the moment. But form is ever-changing, and I doubt that the team that goes to Australia would look too much like that!

  5. I think we could pick the whole squad now and be 95% correct.

    The starting 15 for the first test is another matter!

  6. Interesting that you have ruled out some players due to form and fitness, but included Ashton who hasn’t played in the AI’s yet. I’m not sure that he is the player he was when he burst onto the international scene and was scoring tries for fun. I really hope that this changes as on form he is devastating – but then so are North and Cuthbert. On the form of round one of the AI’s surely you should have Sharples in there as your second bolter of the team.

  7. Given current form and injuries, that team looks good. Like the look of the back row – three players who just don’t stop for 80 mins.

    Also interesting to consider who might captain. Of the national captains, Warburton is off form and Heaslip and Brown might not make the team. Only Robshaw is really an option at the moment. Esp with BOD and POC stymied by injuries

  8. Visser’s defence needs scrutiny. Still going for:
    Healy; Hartley; Cole; Lawes; Gray; Lydiate; Robshaw; Denton; Youngs; Sexton; North; Tuilagi; Davis; Ashton; Kearney – Rep: Corbs; Best; Jones; POC; O’Brien; Care; Wilkinson; Halfpenny

    Hopefully Australia will overcome their injury crisis and can feild a team such as:
    Robinson; Polota Nau; Kepu; Horwill; Timani; Higginbotham; Pocock; Palu; Genia; O’Connor; Ioane; McCabe; AAC; Turner; Beale

    1. I don’t need to look at the stats, he’s not the best player in his position in the British isles, hence not in the lions team.

      Lets see come six nations how many one his direct opponents he tales to the cleaners.

      1. Who’s better than Healy?

        Jenkins? Lol you’re having a laugh
        James? James is the best scrummaging loosehead in the British Isles but overall Healy’s ahead
        Marler? Hasn’t established himself agains top opposition yet
        Corbisiero? Hard to judge since he hasn’t played since the 6 nations
        Scottish Props? hehehe

  9. I think it’s unfair to write North out based off one game where he didn’t get the supply he’s used to. Priestland played terrible and the centers weren’t giving him anything to run off. I still strongly believe he is the most reliable choice for the Lions team at the moment. Visser is playing great but is largely untested at international level, and has a lot to learn in defence. Ashton is a great player but is just back from injury, so it’s too risky to rely on him until he’s been tested a bit further.

    1. Ashton hasn’t been injured? And I agree on North although the wings will be hotly contested and I certainly wouldn’t be upset with Ashton and Visser picked.

  10. Good team*, though I’d swap Hartley for Strauss. While picking Jones myself ahead of Cole a few weeks ago I agree now that Cole has edge due to fitness and actually putting it on the pitch.

    * Healy just isn’t good enough to be a Lion. Yeah, he’s got impact in the loose but his job is to be a loosehead first, not an extra centre. However, he could be the best we’ve got unless some of the other options (looking at you Jenkins) start getting some game time and especially in the case of Jenkins start getting themselves fit. He looked the biggest I’ve ever seen him against Arg, and not in a good way.

    1. If Jenkins doesn’t get fit – and playing behind Sheridan clearly isn’t doing him any good – then we have looseheads in Corbisiero and Marler who are good enough to step up to a Lions level

      I’d certainly have either of them over Healey – they both get themselves around the field but also do their basic jobs very well

      1. Corbisiero I included in the “get some game time” column for me. He hasn’t played much since the last 6 nations?

        I don’t know much about Marler (with the Rabo now often showing 3 games a week on BBC I don’t get to see the English Prem much), but admit that his stupid look-at-me-I’m-the-mutts-nuts haircut makes me ill disposed towards him. However, I’m so bored of the Healy bandwagon that seems to be all driven by ex-backs (it’s always the blinking backs on Sky such as Stuart Barnes who rave on about him) that I’d be willing to go for Marler on a punt if it kept Healy out. He’s had too many shockers in the tight for me be able to rely on him, even against Australia.

        1. Marler is improving but still has a way to go to be above Jenkins, Corbs (fit) and Healy. His performances were creditable in the tight against the Boks, so he has shown he can compete at that level. We haven’t really seen much of his ball carrying and offloading in the white shirt yet, which is his X factor for Quins. Vunipola may well be on a steeper trajectory though, a true giant prop and better hands than some in the backline.

          To be fair to Healy, have any of his shockers in the tight been recent (6N Vs England disregarded as this was tighthead issues)? Seemed to do pretty well in that department against the ABs in the summer and last weekend. Healy would be my pick on current form.

          1. I tend to agree with Brighty on Healy. I really can not see the attraction. A prop first and foremost has to be a good prop. If he can do more than that then excellent, but you can not look over his faults in the loose just because of his other abilities. Jenkins (if he can get game time), and Corbs would be my first choice. Marler too would be above Healy in my book.

          2. Exactly. Last time he had a shocker in the scrum was Hcup QF against Toulouse in 2010, last time he was under real pressure was SA in Autumn two years ago. I can’t think of anyone who has got the better of him since

      2. You are criminally underrating Cian Healy here; I think he’s one of Irelands best and most influential players. Criticism of his scrummaging is two years out of date. I can’t think of anyone who has significantly got the better of him since then. The New Zealanders were acclaiming him as ‘the games top Loosehead’ during the summer tour. Remember Ireland v Aus in the WC? Against South Africa a couple of weeks ago he had Jannie DuPlessis off the field after 50 mins.
        I don’t know what more he has to do to shake this ‘dodgy scrummager’ tag in the mind of some in the UK. Barring injury he will definitely start for the Lions.

    2. From what i remember Healy dominated Owen Franks down in NZ.

      Surely that’s doing the job of an international loosehead. More than Jenkins has done in a couple of years anyway.

      1. I really dont understand where this opinion of Healy is created. It is very rare that you see him done by his opposite number. People seem to have a selective memory. Against England last year, it was Court playing 3 where the problems were, not healy. He is a fine scrummager and did take owen franks apart. Jenkins is most probably a more effective scrummager but the case remains that healy has a way better engine and is better inthe loose and good at ruck time.

        And remember the scrumming will be against an asutrailian front row not a saffer one.

        1. Jenkins (and Jones for that matter) were by far the best props , they aren’t anymore. Wales did not dominate the Aussie scrum last summer, Ireland destroyed it in the RWC. Every time in recent memory Aus lose against a NH team they are getting smashed in the scrum, so I can’t see the case for picking props that haven’t dominated them when we have props that have. On current form and fitness it has to be Healey (I’ve not watched Sheridan this season, but keeping Jenkins on the bench is no great achievement it seems!). If Corbs comes back well, then he takes the shirt from Healey. Both Marler and Vunipola could surpass him by the summer as well.

  11. Some positions have an embarrassment of talent wing for example: North, Visser, Ashton, Bowe, Cuthbert whilst others have no stand-out candidate, hooker for example!

    I’ve just launched the ‘My Lions Rugby’ app which allows you to predict the British & Irish Lions squad for their tour of Australia. Its from the Apple App Store for just £0.69, the closest prediction could win an iPad!

  12. Agree with the team mostly, glad that people have finally started to include tiperic. Not sure about parlin at 5 as grey is just as good in the line outs and I dont feel parlin is dynamic enough around the park. Maybe luke charters/corney lawes/o’connel depending on injurys.
    Also not sure if I would have sexton in, I would have a couple of months ago but with flood playing well I might side with him to keep the 10, 12 combo familiar.
    Lasly I would have north over ashton any day. visser runs good suport lines so you need that x factor that can change games and if north starts coming off his wing and into space I think he could bring that.

  13. You have to remember Sheridan will get a look in for the tour too, he has been a monster for Toulon this season, in a league that is probably the toughest in terms of front row competition.

  14. Everyones worried about how Jenkins is the best loosehead but isnt getting game time at toulon because of Sheridan, so Healey should obviously be picked? Why not just pick Sheridan? or would it be too much for people to admit he is still a world class talent?

  15. Cian Healy, Dan Cole and Richardt Strauss as a front row? honestly can’t argue with that.

    Would have liked to have seen Donnacha Ryan in your selection, but still, lock is positions that we have always been blessed with!

  16. I think Sam Warburton played himself back in contention for a starting position after his performance against the All Blacks. Carried the ball well in addition to his usual jackal and tackle contribution!

  17. These whole lions debates always seem to turn into a home country debate, always wanting your own guy ahead of someone else. In reality the team will be dominated by the Welsh and Irish players with maybe 5 or 6 each and no scots man i’m afraid . Anyway it time that we considered opening up the lions selections to the Italians it would be of benefit all round especially in the tight forward positions.

    1. ORLY? This Irishman disagrees, with my magic hindsight tool. England were brilliant against the AB’s. Some of my fellow Irishmen overrate our team. I think you made an excellent selection.

      The real genius will be whether Gatland can get the panel right. There’s an abundance of talent there to really overpower an opposing team with fresh impact subs, if you do it right. Visser looks to be a good shout.

  18. Such a patriotic stance I have to say! Agree with Johne, you guys happen to be English? How you could leave the entire Irish back row out is laughable, and not have Tommy Bowe there? It is indeed a good job you are not picking the team. And I wouldnt have Tuilagi andywhere near it, he’s a liability – you cannot afford to go down to 14 in these tests. Danny Care is a good shout mind, and I would make space for a Corbisiero. And OK Robshaw may have made a duff decision last week, but he could play a part, if off the bench.

  19. Wow these lions selections are getting boring. At least wait until after the 6 nations.

    I swear these potential XVs dont normally start this early in the season

  20. I ‘am putting forward the idea of bringing the Italians in to future lions selections. They are on a par or even ahead of Scotland right now and have some quality players especially in the tight positions so i feel that it is a no -brainer.

    1. Parisse would be a shoo in at 8. I think that part of Italy’s brilliance in the tight is more to do with great collective scrummaging then individual genius. The only real world class individual genius in the tight five they have is Castrogiovanni, and even he’s being held off at arm’s length by Dan Cole at Leicester. So at the moment, in my lions XV plus the italians, there’d only be Parisse starting and Castrogiovanni on the bench, behind Cole.

      Lions 2013 Squad:

      Class A Sniffing Matt Stevens
      “Just aim at Paul O’Connell” Ross ford
      Chunky Alan Jacobsen
      Real englishman Mouritz Botha
      Evergreen Simon Shaw (C)
      At 6, “He scratched me face so I twatted him” Andy Hazell
      7, none other then Wed card Warbuton
      The eight shirt belongs to the Brand Haskell
      At nine, the incomparable Mauro bergamasco.
      At 10, the mercurial Tobias Botes.
      11 goes to Keith Earls for his wonderful tackle on Hosea Gear.
      Due to a deficiency of quality players in the inside centre position, selection was far more difficult here. Although the efforts of Max Evans, Shontayne Hape, and the tireless Jamie Roberts were commendable, experience was the key factor in determining the incumbent at this position. Step forward Mike Tindall!
      13, only one real choice. Gordon D’arcy for his impeccable defensive efforts and beautiful passing game.
      14 goes to the perrenial favourite, showboating east midlands hairpulling champion Chris Ashton.
      And 15: our personal favourite, Danny Cipriani

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