I haven’t had a chance to speak to George yet as according to his nursery schedule he will be busy filling containers with sand and water right now. However, I’m sure he will be disappointed that Warren Gatland has largely ignored our suggestions for his Lions touring party and failed to pick seven of our starting XV. I could ramble on for ages about why I would have picked a different squad but I know George would want me to keep it brief.
Most bizarre omissions: Chris Robshaw (should have been captain), Greg Laidlaw and Rory Best.
Most bizarre selections: Conor Murray (how on earth did he make it?), Toby Faletau (not good enough), Richie Gray (badly out of form).
I have other concerns about certain players who are coming back from injury and may not have much time to establish form and fitness (Lydiate & Bowe) but equally there are some players hitting top form at exactly the right time (J Davies, B Youngs & O’Connell). There is enough quality in this squad to make a formidable starting XV. This is the team I would pick based those selected for the trip.
15 – Leigh Halfpenny
14 – Tommy Bowe
13 – Brian O’Driscoll
12 – Jamie Roberts
11 – Stuart Hogg (not a winger but far better player than other wingers in the squad)
10 – Owen Farrell
9 – Ben Youngs
1 – Gethin Jenkins
2 – Richard Hibbard
3 – Adam Jones
4 – Paul O’Connell (captain)
5 – AW Jones
6 – Tom Croft
7 – Justin Tipuric
8 – Jamie Heaslip
Substitutes: Cole, T Youngs, Vunipola, Parling, O’Brien, Phillips, Sexton, J Davies.
You have probably noticed that I haven’t picked the official Lions captain but as even Warren Gatland doesn’t think Warburton is the best open side flanker in the Welsh team why would he start for the Lions? There are two specialist blind-side flankers in the squad (Croft and Lydiate) and they are both better than Warburton in that position so I see no reason to start him there either. He is a fine player but I would only play him if Tipuric is not playing well. O’Brien is a brilliant impact player and can cover all back row positions so he deserves a place on the bench.
I will need to check this selection with George when we get home but I doubt he will disagree. I think the Aussies will be terrified of that front five, the back row can dominate the breakdown and there is real pace and invention in the backs. Time to bring on the Lions!