Potential Lions XVs: how have they changed over the season?

With the British and Irish Lions squad set to be announced a week on Tuesday, the excitement is all set to ramp up a notch – if that is possible. The whet your appetites, we thought it would be interesting to see how our potential Lions teams have changed over the course of the season. Who has come from no-where to put their hand up for selection? Whose season has seen them fall by the wayside, either through injury or form? Who has been in the mix all season long? Which bizarre bolters were mentioned and now make the selector look hopelessly stupid? With a bit of luck some of these questions are answered below!

Date: Sepetember 2012
Selection committee: Hutch

1. Gethin Jenkins 2. Rory Best 3. Adam Jones 4. Richie Gray 5. Courtney Lawes 6. Dan Lydiate 7. Sam Warburton (c) 8. David Denton 9. Mike Phillips 10. Jonny Sexton 11. George North 12. Jamie Roberts 13. Brian O’Driscoll 14. Tim Visser 15. Rob Kearney

Date: October 2012
Selection committee: Jamie, Nik

1. Gethin Jenkins 2. Dylan Hartley 3. Dan Cole 4. Jim Hamilton 5. Alun-Wyn Jones 6. Stephen Ferris 7. Sam Warburton (c) 8. Toby Faletau 9. Danny Care 10. Jonny Wilkinson 11. Tommy Bowe 12. Jamie Roberts 13. Manu Tuilagi 14. George North 15. Rob Kearney

Date: November 2012
Selection committee: Jamie, Nik

1. Cian Healy 2. Richardt Strauss 3. Dan Cole 4. Richie Gray 5. Geoff Parling 6. Chris Robshaw (c) 7. Justin Tipuric 8. Toby Faletau 9. Danny Care 10. Johnny Sexton 11. Tim Visser 12. Manu Tuilagi 13. Jonathan Davies 14. Chris Ashton 15. Leigh Halfpenny

Date: December 2012
Selection committee: Charlie

1. Cian Healy 2. Rory Best 3. Dan Cole 4. Geoff Parling 5. Joe Launchbury 6. Stephen Ferris 7. Chris Robshaw 8. Toby Faletau 9. Conor Murray 10. Johnny Sexton 11. George North 12. Manu Tuilagi 13. Brian O’Driscoll (c) 14. Tommy Bowe 15. Leigh Halfpenny

Date: January 2013
Selection committee: Jamie

1. Cian Healy 2. Richard Hibbard 3. Dan Cole 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Geoff Parling 6. Sean O’Brien 7. Justin Tipuric 8. Jamie Heaslip (c) 9. Conor Murray 10. Johnny Sexton 11. Alex Cuthbert 12. Manu Tuilagi 13. Jonathan Davies 14. Eli Walker 15. Leigh Halfpenny

Date: March 2013
Selection committee: Jamie, Hutch, Charlie

1. Cian Healy 2. Best 3. Adam Jones 4. Alun-Wyn Jones 5. Geoff Parling 6. Sam Warburton 7. Justin Tipuric 8. Toby Faletau 9. Mike Phillips 10. Johnny Sexton 11. George North 12. Jamie Roberts 13. Brian O’Driscoll (c) 14. Alex Cuthbert 15. Leigh Halfpenny

1. Cian Healy 2. Richard Hibbard 3. Adam Jones 4. Alun-Wyn Jones 5. Geoff Parling 6. Chris Robshaw (c) 7. Sam Warburton 8. Toby Faletau 9. Ben Youngs 10. Johnny Sexton 11. Leigh Halfpenny 12. Jamie Roberts 13. Brian O’Driscoll 14. Alex Cuthbert 15. Stuart Hogg

1. Cian Healy 2. Rory Best 3. Adam Jones 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Alun-Wyn Jones 6. Dan Lydiate 7. Justin Tipuric 8. Toby Faletau 9. Mike Phillips 10. Johnny Sexton 11. Tim Visser 12. Jamie Roberts 13. Brian O’Driscoll (c) 14: Alex Cuthbert 15: Leigh Halfpenny

What do you make of the teams? Are the latest XVs vastly more feasible than the ones from the beginning of the season? Whose is likely to be closest to the actual team? Have your say below.

31 thoughts on “Potential Lions XVs: how have they changed over the season?

  1. No love for Jim Hamilton, Greg Laidlaw or Jonathan Davies?

    The hardest choices lay in the back row and back line. Wales (alone) and Scotland have absolutely lethal lineups in those spots. My 11th attempt at a Lions Test XV looks like this:

    1. Cian Healy
    2. Rory Best
    3. Adam Jones
    4. Geoff Parling
    5. Jim Hamilton
    6. Chris Robshaw
    7. Justin Tipuric
    8. Toby Faletau
    9. Greg Laidlaw
    10. Jonathan Sexton
    11. Tim Visser
    12. Jonathan Davies
    13. Brian O’Driscoll (c)
    14. Alex Cuthbert
    15. Leigh Halfpenny

  2. Hilarious how much some of them have changed! I would love to be able to dig up some of my old predictions on here! I would probably just laugh at myself! But lets do my current team:
    1. Cian Healy 2. Richard Hibbard 3. Dan Cole 4. Alun-Wyn Jones 5. Joe Launchbury 6. Chris Robshaw (c) 7. Sam Warburton 8. Toby Faletau 9. Ben Youngs 10. Johnny Sexton 11. George North 12. Jamie Roberts 13. Manu Tuilagi 14. Chris Asthon 15. Leigh Halfpenny

  3. It’s not easy, some of my mates (x6) have put a tenner in, nearest the number wins, 1st XV and squad. Here’s my 1st XV;
    1. Healy 2. Hartley 3. Jones 4. O’Connell (C) 5. Gray if fit or Wynne-Jones 6. Tipuric 7. SOB 8. Beattie 9. Philips 10. Sexton 11. Visser 12. Roberts 13. BOD 14. North 15. Halfpenny

    1. I’m surprised no-one else has mentioned Beattie. I thought he was excellent for Scotland in the 6N, and although Faletau is a good reliable player, I don’t think he has the explosive ball carrying ability that Beattie or Morgan could bring.

  4. England came second in The Six Nations and fairly easily beat all but a Wales who were greatly helped by a Ref who always appears to hate England and have no idea of how to Ref a scrum.
    So how they can only get one or two players in a team beggars belief!

    1. “fairly easily beat all but a Wales who were greatly helped by a Ref ” – sigh, I’ll bite as it’s just before lunch. Grow up, watch the game again, realise that Wales blew England away all over the park not just at the scrums.

      I’d also suggest rewatching England play the almighty travellers Italy at Twickers and then reconsider the use of the words “easily beat”.

      If you really do though want to have a go at the ref then have a go at the offside try they allowed for England which enabled them to beat France … Seriously, I’m not bothered about that try as marginal things happen in games, but if you’re gonna throw around such tosh about England in that last game then you’re going to have every ref decision that went FOR England in the championship thrown back in your face.

      1. I was waiting for you to come on this one Brighty! You are right though, any Englishmen needs to accept that Wales blew us away that day in Cardiff, and beat us fair and square.

        That doesn’t mean to say that I think the margin between the teams is that great, or even that Wales are better. But they were on the day and that can not be argued.

    2. Welcome to the Rugby Blog Colin – think they’re mostly taffs on here mate ;-D

      However, this does raise the issue of the inexperience of the majority of the England squad. The 6 Nations is one thing – I know we beat NZ but that was a one-off – but the Lions is a giant step up. For example, while Launchbury and Parling were both great in the 6 Nations I think I’d rather the experience of the likes of POC, AWJ etc. in Australia.

  5. Surprised that only one person has mentioned O’Connell at all. I think he would be a good bet.

    My starting XV has changed a fair bit, but overall my 23 is mainly the same names. The changes have come from popping people in or out as starters.

    Jenkins and Healy are vying for LH test starts. ANO will start the midweek
    Hooker is now between Hibbard, best and youngs. Hartley and Strauss lost out. Ford came close.
    TH has always been between cole and jones. Jones is now my starter. The 3rd TH could go to either Murray or Ross.
    O’Connell has come in to start at lock, he would be a great partner for launchbury. Ryan, parling, Wyn jones all seem to be vying for slots too.
    Backrow was been tricky. I like wood and robshaw as 6’s. warburton and tipuric for 7. Then a spot for brown or sob, most likely sob for me (harsh on brown, but sob brings a carrying game)
    8’s will be faletau and Morgan/heaslip. I would probably play sob as an 8 though. Faletau would probably start the tests.
    9 has always been Phillips or youngs. The last spot has changed between Murray, care and laidlaw. I would go laidlaw at the moment, cos he has something different to the rest.
    Sexton and faz at 10.
    North and Cuthbert to start on the wings. Zebo and Bowe could come in if form is good.
    15 is obviously halfpenny. Kearney and Hogg next. I like brown, and would like him to tour, but can’t see who to drop.
    Centres would be Manu, Roberts, BOD, JD and I would take 12Ts as well. The 1st 4 are obvious, but 12Ts is big, kicks and can cover 10. He can also do a job at 13 (made us Heineken debut there) so that versatility would be handy.

  6. Lads, have none of you watched the Rabo lately? Sexton hasn’t been playing due to his cursed leg. He’s looking less and less likely to be nailed on. Farrell is playing the most consistently at ten for Saracens. Ben youngs is playing better rugby than mike Phillips is across the channel as well. Agree with most of the other selections. Midfield is the toughest as Roberts, BOD, and Tuilagi bring their own magic. Of course there is a myriad of combinations that could be picked to play down under in the backrow as well.
    Anyone think that joe launchbury and Alun Wynn jones will be too light in the engine room? Would love a big physical second row presence to really drive home scrum advantage and knock some Oz carriers around. O’Connell seems the only man to take on that mantle at the moment but I can’t see him lasting a full tour injury free. He’s a big abrasive man but he’s needed to be wrapped up in cotton wool lately. But then again Geoff parling is a tower of consistency and line out wizardry. Definitely think Gatland has a bigger selection headache than Geech did back in 2009.

    1. If Sexton doesn’t make it then are there calls for Wilkinson?

      Also, the centres is very difficult. I ended up going with no BOD, but I think if there is not Sexton then Farrell, Roberts Manu could be a bit one dimensional, so BOD may be needed.

      In regards to the locks, I don’t think weight will be an issue. Also, as you mentioned, there is nobody of that type massively putting their hand up. The front runners I believe are Parling, Launchbury and AW Jones – and I think it will be two of those three. Or could this bring Jim Hamilton into it?

      1. I’m all for taking Wilkinson even if Sexton does make it. A firing Sexton and a fully fit Wilkinson sounds like the best pair to me. Cannot believe I am saying it but B&I 10 play is generally shocking at the mo and Wilkinson is playing very, very well.

  7. I don’t understand how Healy and Best are getting so many picks, Healy is a dirty player whose scrummaging isn’t that great compared to people like Gethin Jenkins, Best’s throwing is iffy and he doesn’t offer enough in other areas for me to be starting hooker ahead of Hibbard or Youngs (or even Ford?!).

    Also I like Sexton but there has to be a worry about whether he is going to make it back? If he doesn’t I think a Welsh FH (I still like Hook) or Farrell would be the picks.

    Anyway my 1st XV:

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Tom Youngs
    3. Adam Jones
    4. Paul O’Connell
    5. Geoff Parling
    6. Chris Robshaw
    7. Justin Tipuric
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    9. Greg Laidlaw
    10. Jonathan Sexton
    11. George North
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Manu Tuilagi
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Leigh Halfpenny

  8. 1. Sheridan
    2. Best
    3. Jones
    4. O’Connell (c)
    5. Launchbury
    6. Robshaw
    7. Warburton
    8. Morgan
    9. Phillips
    10. Sexton
    11. Bowe
    12. O’Driscoll
    13. Tualgi
    14. North
    15. Halfpenny

  9. My XV – very Welsh heavy. I’m trying not to be Welsh biased, probably failing but in my defence I offer a) I have seen these players more than anyone else this year, especially the English as I rarely see that league and b) I’m still buzzing from the title defence…

    1 – Gethin Jenkins
    2 – Hibbard
    3 – Adam Jones
    4 – AWJ
    5 – POC
    6 – Warburton
    7 – Tipuric
    8 – Faletau
    9 – Phillips
    10 – Sexton
    11 – Cuthbert
    12 – Roberts
    13 – BOD
    14 – North
    15 – Halfpenny

    So no English or Scottish. Needless to say I will be wrong on that, I expect to see Tuilagi in the XV and a couple of other changes when injuries and form become evident. There were also a fair few marginal calls for me e.g. Jones/Cole, POC/AWJ/Launchbury but I just can’t find myself doing things like dropping North, Cuthbert, Phillips, Halfpenny and the Welsh backrow given how well they play when on top of their game.

    Ignore my selection at 1 – my dislike of Healy is well known and now Gethin is back to Cardiff I couln’t possibly drop him.

    1. Haha very Welsh! I like the honesty – I tried to be a bit diplomatic and pick non-English players where I really wanted to put an Englishman in!

      I would be surprised if your prediction even right for half of the team though! My guess is you’ll only have 5 or 6 of the XV right with that selection.

      1. I thnik you are probably right, so trying to be harsh I suspect I will see the following not make the XV

        – Jenkins
        – Hibbard
        – Cuthbert (harsh but possibly too early for him)
        – Tipuric
        – Faletau

        Then you add in that I’m picking based on “best level” i.e. not form as the 6 nations showed me that form changes from week to week so I can’t predict how that will go over there. So right now I’m assuming everyone will play to their best so these are the players I think are the best when at that level.

        1. See I would actually have both Hibbard and Falatau in my team – but I would have Youngs over Phillips, and Roberts may make way for Manu in your team above. A hell of a lot of close calls though.

          Interesting point about form and the 6N; it did seem to change frequently.

  10. Healy
    Farrell (Sexton if fit)

    Wilko (Farrell if sexton fit)

  11. The test starting XV is an entirely different prospect than the touring party, and whilst it is fun, it is plainly impossible – even for Gatland at this point – to pick a starting XV. It will not be the best XV individuals for certain – it will be the best XV – and on a Tour, particularly a Lions tour, the two are never the same.

    For me, there are areas where we are strong (flankers, 2nd row, props, back three for example) and whoever tours, and whoever gets to start, we will be strong.

    The problem areas in my opinion are hooker, No8 and Centre.

    Hooker – Best, Youngs and Hibbard will probably go. Thats the easy bit, but to me, none of them are particularly on top of their game. That said, eh direct competition that is produced on tour may up their respective games.

    No8 – Faletau, Heaslip, Morgan? AN Other? We can all look back on the great deeds of all three – particularly Heaslip and Faletau, but none of them had great 6Ns. they showed flashes of inspiration at times, but also some pretty ordinary moments.

    Centres – similar situation to the No8; nobody doubts the quality and/or unique strengths of BOD, Roberts or Tuilagi, but could anyone honestly say that they were impressive during the 6Ns. Marshall, Scott, Twelvetrees, Davies and even Barritt (in his way) could be said to have been better, so that leaves us with fine players but not perhaps at the top of their game.

    The other intangible of course is form; As an example, you may argue that Hogg and Halfpenny were two of the consistently form players throughout the 6Ns, BUT is there a danger that they have peaked, and may not be able to continue their form through the summer. It has happened before.

    The reverse of course could also be true and we could find ourselves lauding the likes of Chris Ashton or Conor Murray (if they go!) at the end of the summer.

    Last point is on Tight Heads. Injury notwithstanding I imagine it certain that both Jones and Cole will play in every minute of every test between them. Who is considered better is almost irrelevant to how Gatland sees the game, when he considers who should start and who should finish.

  12. Here goes. On current form, and from what I’ve seen of various teams playing lately:
    1. Vunipola
    2. T. Youngs
    3. Jones
    4. O’Connell (C)
    5. Parling
    6. Croft
    7. Tipuric
    8. Beattie
    9. B. Youngs
    10. Wilkinson
    11. North
    12. Tuilagi
    13. BOD
    14. Zebo
    15. Halfpenny

    16. Best
    17. Healy
    18. Cole
    19. Alun Wyn Jones
    20. Robshaw
    21. Phillips
    22. Farrell
    23. Elliott Daly

    I’ve put Daly in as an uncapped player. He has the ability to play centre or full back, and he’s getting better with every game I see him in. No stranger to the try line either, and can kick penalties from anywhere in the opponents half.

    Also watching Croft return to some great form has been interesting, and I think Gatland has been watching him closely.

  13. Can’t get too excited about first XVs at this stage as we have no idea on how many of the combinations and permutations will work together. I don’t think there has been anywhere near as much volatility in who people would have in their touring squads. Richie Gray would have been one of the first names on my list last year, his star has waned significantly. Lawes, Wood and Ashton are all players I expected to tour as well (still an outside chance for Wood), aside from that I can’t think of many others that have dropped out of contention through form.

    1. What didn’t help Wood was being played at 8 for the majority of the 6N. A position which made him much less effective.

      1. I agree. Lancaster did Wood no favours there. What is even more annoying is that he brought in Haskell to replace Morgan who isn’t so good that it warrants moving our best 6 to 8. Vunipola should have been given a shot and who knows even he may be challenging for the second 8 spot to Faletau for the Lions.

        I hope Gatland remembers Wood’s performances in the Autumn and picks him. A back row of him at 6, Warburton at 7 and Faletau/SOB at 8 would be a great blend.

  14. As many above have said, to which I agree, it’s not about the starting XV, it’s about the squad. Here goes.

    Healy, Jenkins, Vunipola, Murray, Cole, Jones

    Hibbard, Youngs, Cole

    Parling, O’Connell, Wyn-Jones, Evans, Gray (if plays at least one game before, if not Launchbury)

    O’Brien, Wood, Robshaw, Warburton, Tipuric, Faletau, Heaslip

    Youngs, Phillips, Care

    Farrell, Sexton

    Roberts, Twelvetrees, O’Driscoll, Davies, Tuilagi

    Cuthbert, Bowe, Wade, North

    Halfpenny, Kearney

    I reckon even if Sexton isn’t fit he will go, and if he can’t prove fitness then he will call Wilkinson up as a rep, as he will be done with Toulon by then.

  15. Seriously am I missing something here?

    Did BOD do soemthing spectactular that I missed?

    Im pretty sure he didnt, i watched every minute of his dreadful tournament.

    I feel like i am going crazy.

    Maybe i am missig something here. Could someone please give me a detailed explanation as to why he should be in the test side and explain to me what it is i am missing.

    he was once the best centre in the world but is now nowhere near the player that he was. And why with at least 2 outside centres playing better than him it should be BOD that goes on tour in their place?

    I mean I am first to sing bods praises of what he has accomplished. But he is so blatantly and clearly not good enough to play in the tests its ridiculous. Maybe a spot on tour as an experienced head but no way in the tests.

    Someone please explain to me why this is fair and the right thing to do? Atm i couldnt possible see why this should be!

    1. Red, I don’t disagree with most of what you say, but to answer your initial question, yes I think you may have missed his game against wales and in particular the try he created for Zebo.

      Is that good enough to give him the Lions shirt? Of course not, BUT without reverting to references to promise/potential/known quality we cannot guarantee any of the Centre options will deliver based on the 6Ns.

  16. I agree wholeheartedly about BOD. One good pass to Zebo and one poached try against Wales. Very little else. It would be a crime if his inclusion cost Twelvetrees a place in the squad. Anyone not in contention for the test team should not be considered. He is past his peak and shouldn’t go. Did anyone see the team Hill picked on the Lions site? Not ONE Welsh player in it!!!!!!! Proves great ex players don’t necessarily have any brains.

    1. Geraint, that team of Hill’s was picked before the 6N even began. He’s gone on record since then to say that it would look a lot different now! If I were him I’d be pretty annoyed with whoever released that video at such a time that made him look so stupid.

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