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New thread virgin...just popped my cherry!
So what do we think?
With the right squad and approach to the whole tour, I think we've got a shout.
Team for 1st Test for me:
11 L Williams
5 Alun Wyn Jones (c)
Feel free to pull apart
I actually prefer Webb as a player, but if you pick Sexton then him and Murray come as a pair when you have such a limited amount of time to pull together a side IMO.
Would love to see Webb/Ford/FarrellDaly but not sure that fits a Gatland game plan; and would be worried about Ford defensively. Would give us some major creativity though so would be fun!
It will be bloody tough but I think it will be close!
There'll be more taffs and paddies than anglos. The jocks might get Hogg in there.
The real question is the captain - no point having a captain that wont play all the time no matter what Gatland says - it's only 3 tests after all. It'll be AWJ or Warburton, my money going on the latter.
Like your front row. George for me should take over from DH for England. Nel is in with a shout for 3 if he can get fit. Mako V would be the complete prop if he could improve his scrummaging, which, at times, stinks but he'd be on the bench. Cole will travel, as probably will a generic Welsh loosehead as it's Gatland.
AWJ will go for the mythical leadership qualities but I'd have the English 4 in the squad with Johnny Gray.
If I was taking an English flanker I'd go with Robshaw rather than Haskell. The Celts can provide plenty of blood and thunder merchants like Haskell e.g. O Mahony, O Brien, and if you're looking at something different then Warburton. Robshaw gives you relentless tackling, workrate, a great positional sense and a superb pair of hands that rapidly tidies up and recycles messy ball. England are a lesser side without him. Probably not Gatland's type though and is only returning to action this weekend after his injury layoff. Billy V nailed on 8 with Faletau as his back up. Stander, Tipuric, O Brien and possibly Watson to also travel.
Murray and Sexton would be my 9 and 10. Webb and Biggar are unbearable and the latter not as good as he thinks he is. Care would be my impact sub.
Farrell at 12 - tight with Henshaw but Faz has to be in the team, particularly for once an All Black has done a job on Sexton. I'd be surprised if Daly plays 13. Think that'll be either Joseph or Ringroad as a bolter.
Hogg definitely full back, Liam Williams 1 wing, I'd like to see Watson or maybe Seymour on the other but it'll probably be North. Daly to travel too.
4. Itoje (Launchbury)
6. Robshaw/Stander (Either!)
7. Tipuric/O Brien (Either!)
8. B Vunipola
11. L Williams
12. Farrell (c)
17. M Vunipola
18. W.P Nel (Cole if not)
19. Whichever of Launchbury and Itoje doesn't play)
20. Pick any
23. Daly / North
One thing that stands out. There's no totem pole leader any more. No POC, no Martin Johnson, no BOD. Hence why I went with Farrell. Just seems to take everything in his stride.
Loving the extra rugby chat on the new Sports Bar!
I had a bit of spare time on my hands yesterday so sat down and picked a 37 man squad with what I would go for as the matchday 23 for the 1st test as it stands today. Taking into consideration there is a lot of rugby to be played between now and then with Premiership play offs, Pro 12, European Champions Cup and not to mention the several warm-up games in New Zealand prior to the 1st test. No doubt there will be a few big names that get injured and some players that throw their hat into the mix in the business part of the season.
Props: J Marler, J McGrath, M Vunipola, T Furlong, D Cole, K Sinckler
Hookers: D Hartley, R Best, J George
Locks: J Launchbury, I Henderson, AW Jones, M Itoje, D Toner
Back row: S O'Brien, CJ Stander, B Vunipola, P O'Mahony, R Moriarty, J Tipuric, S Warburton (capt).
Scrum-halves: C Murray, R Webb, B Youngs
Fly-halves: J Sexton, G Ford
Centres: O Farrell, R Henshaw, J Joseph, J Davies
Wings: G North, A Watson, E Daly, L Williams
Full-backs: L Halfpenny, S Hogg, M Brown
1) J McGrath
2) D Hartley
3) T Furlong
4) AW Jones
5) J Launchbury
6) CJ Stander
7) S Warburton (c)
8) B Vunipola
9) C Murray
10) J Sexton
11) A Watson
12) O Farrell
13) J Joseph
14) G North
15) S Hogg
16) J George
17) M Vunipola
18) K Sinckler
19) M Itoje
20) S O'Brien
21) R Webb
22) R Henshaw
23) E Daly
Toughest calls for me are at hooker, where Best could quite easily replace Hartley and George has a genuine chance at getting a starting spot between now and the 1st test. I just think that on a tour to NZ you need experience and Hartley will have a lot more time between now and then than he did to get fit for the 6 Nations. His set piece skills will be vital as will his presence in his homeland as a member of the touring party. Also, I've gone for Hogg at full-back but I don't actually think he's as nailed on to start as many do. He can be susceptible under the high ball and his last man defence isn't the greatest, I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown or Halfpenny start or even L Williams who had a great tour to NZ in the summer.
Big fan of Webb at 9, but I feel if you go for Sexton then you link him up with Murray. Webb will provide a lift in tempo off the bench. Few that could go either way, particularly Jonathan Davies or Garry Ringrose depending on form leading up to the summer. Again, Faletau could easily get a spot in the squad ahead of Moriarty but I think Moriarty is quality, shame he crossed the bridge! Could go on all day and try to justify every selection.
Haskell needs to go IMO....not least because he's spent time actually playing out there at top level. Wouldn't start him but good option and his experience will be v useful
Think hooker is going to be the toughest call....any of Best, Owens, George or Hartley could be a genuine starter....one of them ain't even going to get on the plane!
Jamie Roberts going over JJ? Yes, the ABs are going to struggle to contain an immobile centre crashing through the middle. These Lions are going to get absolutely shredded. AWJ over Launchbury? For what? Being a bit of a Ŵelsh icon?
I hope these rumours are just that. Jamie Roberts - FFS
Also agree about AWJ, did not have a good 6 nations and, due to his age, not as mobile these days. We will need to be on the ball for 80 minutes and he would not be able to cope. I think he will go though in the place of Launchberry as he will take Kruis, Lawes & Itoje so can't be taking another English lock.
I also don't think he will take Brown, for some reason he fancies Hogg - better going forward but can't defend. I can also see Halfpenny & Williams going along with Watson. Williams would be my choice and the only reason he is not the welsh 15 is to accommodate Halfpenny.
Teo instead of Joseph is interesting but I would be taking both.
Roll on midday!!
Good, not great, and has struggled with national leadership duties in recent years. Building a touring squad around a team that won one away match in 18 months (against Italy) is hilariously bad planning by Gatland.
But let's face it - they're not going there to win. Howley and Gatland are going on a drinking tour and want some mates to go drinking with.
Agree on Moriarty (surprise) and Launchbury (unlucky)....apart from that though nothing too controversial? by going with a bigger squad of 41, he gave himself some more wriggle room and avoided the JJ or not decision
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