Ryan Grant to be called on for Melbourne Test?

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Lions coach Warren Gatland has food for thought after Ryan Grant’s solid performance yesterday against the Melbourne Rebels– making it unclear whether Mako Vunipola will be first choice for the loosehead prop shirt.

Mako Vunipola was, for many, the natural replacement for injured Alex Corbisiero but after the Lions’ scrum dissolved just after half-time in the first Test with the replacement front-row coming on, the Lions head coach might need to rethink.

Many of the ‘second string’, including Sean O’Brien and Manu Tuilagi, laid a marker down in yesterday’s 35-0 win and in the engine room Grant stated his case for inclusion. The man from Fife scrummaged well – albeit against less testing opposition – and if Gatland is picking his second Test side for the same reasons as the first, then Grant’s performance at the set piece would merit his inclusion over Vunipola.

Grant also impressed in open play, carrying the ball five times and he crucially won two turn-overs – an area of the game which will be more competitive this weekend after Chris Pollock’s whistle-happy performance at Suncorp. The Scot, who made his international debut last summer, made seven tackles against the Rebels – more than his front-row compatriots – but the final say on his inclusion will be down to his performance in the scrum, judged by Graham Rowntree.

With the casualty list in the front row, I believe Grant’s performance should get him a place on the bench but it would not surprise if he was named to start on Saturday.

Gatland said the reason for choosing Corbisiero ahead of Vunipola for the first Test was due to the likelihood of wet weather as Corbisiero is more solid in the scrum. It is looking dry for Melbourne at the weekend, but will the disintegration of the Lions scrum in the first Test convince Gatland to go with the more reliable scrummaging of Grant?

Vunipola is devastating when unleashed with ball in hand, much more so than the bearded Scotsman, and Gatland believes that to be the New Zealand-born prop’s best asset, but mainly when coming off the bench against a tired defence.

The only concern with starting Grant would be his lack of top-drawer opposition since arriving on tour prior to being unleashed in the biggest Test match he will have played. That said, on the back of an impressive first season for Scotland and with injuries rife in the Lions camp, who says there can’t be a man from north of the border starting a Test for the first time since Tom Smith in 2001?

And Smith’s position? Loosehead prop.

By Tom Macleod (@TMacSport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

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35 comments on “Ryan Grant to be called on for Melbourne Test?

  1. Completely disagree with the idea that Vunipola is best when coming off the bench for last quarter. His best performances on this tour have been when he started and grew into the game. He played the majority of the last half of the season playing an approx. average of 60 minutes per game for Sarries, and these performances are what got him the Lions call.

    One good game for Grant should not see him jump above Vunipola. And I don’t think Grant was that good in the Rebels game, it’s just that he was better than he was last week (which isn’t saying much).

  2. Bangkaew

    Yes he is. My point was that the writer said that Grant would be the first prop from North of the Border to start for the Lions since Tom Smith.

    But Tom Smith isn’t from North of the border.

  3. Ryan Grant did play well in the game against Australia last year where the scrum won Scotland the game, albeit in wet conditions.

  4. Here we are trying to pick between ball player and scrumager. Cian Healey get fit and come back please.

  5. Just like all Scotsmen, it would appear that Grant is vastly under-appreciated, if only on this blog. He has his own exceptional abilitys, including with the ball in hand. He should have started the first test as he is the best all round loosehead on tour now.

    • He’s had 2 poor performances and 1 good one (as part of a good tight 5 effort), we wouldn’t be even discussing him for a test 23 had it not been for another injury. On his good performance he was lucky the first scrum was a reset as their was no attempt to bind and was pinged later in the game for a similar offence.

      I’m delighted we have such great strength in depth, that we can have 3 injuries to world class props and still have excellent props available. I just don’t understand the argument that he should have been selected ahead of one of the original touring party, or selected ahead of Corbs (who was excellent) last week. The consensus seems to be he’s very good, but not quite as good as those selected ahead of him, how is that under appreciated?

      All things being equal I would have started him ahead of Vuni this week, but given that Vuni, Youngs and Jones can train together all week expect this will be the starting front row. Replacement props can still have a significant impact on the game (positive and negative), so he’ll still have a critical role to play in the 1 shirt or the 17 shirt.

    • Are you insane the Scots aren’t ‘Under Appreciated’ they just aren’t very good.

      You have to remember this is a side that used to win the 5 nations, in fact won the last tournament in 1999 but ever since have been total garbage and consider beating Italy a ‘Turning Point’, look at the overall Six Nations stats clearly the second worst team by a country mile.

      Finally these are the very reasons that there are only 4 Scottish Lions.

  6. Start the first test ahead of Corbisiero who, along with Jones, rinsed the Oz scrum. It was only when they came off that Australia looked dominant up front.

    The reason Scots are under-appreciated is because they generally aren’t very good. Hence why they are normally competing with Italy for the wooden spoon in the 6N.

    And Grant has been poor so far on this tour.

  7. Looks like Mako is set to start anyway so the best Grant can hope for is a place on the bench.

  8. It looked to me like the major problems with the scrum at the end of the first test were with Cole’s side of it. In those last two scrums at least. Is it possible Vunipola is getting stick on this occasion for something which wasn’t his fault?

    • Agree! When Dan Cole went backwards in the 6N it was all Marler’s fault!

      It all looked wrong as a unit, Hibbard seemed to be lower than the props with his arms up in the air like a gull wing car. Hardly an ideal position to exert any force. Thing XXXWookie has it right pointing out that it’s an issue with replacing a whole front row unit (especially when it’s not a familiar well oiled combo).

  9. Grant’s not very good but he did wipe the floor with Adam Jones in a game against the Hairsprays just before the tour.

  10. I want to rant about the team selected for Saturday and you haven’t put up a post yet. Don’t you work all night. Lol!

    Can’t understand what Gatland is on about “resting Phillips”. Is this another way to say, I was wrong and he’s been dropped but I won’t admit it?

    Croft on the bench as Lock cover. No – put a lock on the bench. Might need a heavyweight if Parling proves too light in the scrum. Not sure that will happen, but it is a plan B.

    Lydiate starting. Looks like Gats is doing everything he can to make his preordained captain look good. Not convinced by the personel but might be happier with the balance.

    Not sure about Cuthbert on the bench. He’s not a versatile player. Looks as though they are worried that Bowe won’t make the entire game.

    • Yeah come on guys, wake up!!!!!! This is so much yesterdays news, time to wake up and smell the coffee. LOL!!

      Whilst I can understand the reasons for some of these changes i.e. Lydiate for Croft, Youngs for Phillips, Bowe for Cuthbert etc, I cannot see why Cuthbert is moved to the bench?, and Tuilagi is not in the squad at all???????

      • Yes Tuilagi, forgot about him in my excitement! Doesn’t look like he will get a game now as Gats will put Roberts in for test 3. That’s criminal. Centre pairing definitely didn’t work as a unit last week. Same as backrow, good players deserving of starts but not the right balance. Well he’s changed the backrow, but not the centre combo.

        • I really thought after Tuesdays game that Tuilagi would be in for Davies. Davies did nothing wrong, but him and BOD offered no threat in the midfield. And I’m sorry but Cuthbert offers nothing from the bench. He’s only there to cover Bowe, but wouldn’t it be better to have Maitland or Zebo on the bench. At least they’ve both spent some time at full back, so could potentially cover there if necessary. If Halfpenny gets injured, would love to know what Gats is going to do. Who goes to FB???? Certainly not Cuthbert, that would be a defensive disaster.

        • I would have started Manu at 12. Dont think JD is a bad player by any stretch, but Manu suits gatland’s style perfectly, and he will scare the hell out of the Aussies.

          I am perplexed by the selection at 6. If I was going to drop croft, it would have been for SOB or to shoehorn Faletau in somehow. Lydiate is a decent player, but he doesn’t bring anything that any of the other 3 don’t.

          I wonder if we will see Lydiate and Heaslip both changed, having the locks play all game (both are pretty used to 80min shifts).

          I also find it a bit odd that so much focus was put on the lineout, and they drop Croft. With Youngs having Parling and Croft, the lineout would have been immense. The lions will be at a disadvantage now, as the wallabies actually have the edge in this are now. Horwill and Douglas are very good jumpers, with Simmons on the bench. But the real threat will be Mowen. Jake White said his lineout understanding is as good as Matfield’s… Croft was the man we used to counter that.

          I hope the selection of Lydiate at 6 pays off, because to have left both Croft and SOB on the bench is a brave call.

          • If memory serves me correctly Australia had 5 lineouts last week and we didn’t challenge once (let alone get a steal). We also didn’t deliver any quality ball from the tale.

            OK Australia are marking heavily at the back, so it’s then the job of the Lions to mix it up at the front/middle, a couple of huge driving mauls or a Tom Youngs snipe down the 5m channel and it forces them to rethink their strategy. Despite having a greater number of better quality jumpers we were second best in the battle of the lineout brains.

  11. Very surprised about Phillips, I thought Gatland would die in a ditch before dropping him maybe he wanted political cover in his selection of Lydiate. Cannot believe that Manu may not get a test. I cannot think of a more destructive NH centre over the last year, had bad luck with the injury tho.