Before the NZ Maoris ………..Lions Tour 15 June 2017

Lions team v NZ Maoris

L Halfpenny (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te’o (England), G North (Wales); J Sexton, C Murray (both Ireland); M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), M Itoje, G Kruis (both England), P O’Mahony (capt, Ireland), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), I Henderson (Ireland), S Warburton (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland), D Biggar (Wales), E Daly (England).

I’m liking this team. Arguably not quite the potential test squad but not far off. Such a shame Farrell is injured. He really needs to be fit.

Discussion points:

FB – Halfpenny understands the game and reads it well. A safe choice but as he’s lost his pace he’s lost his dynamism. Watson an alternative and Daly arguably a  replacement finisher if required as he has pace and will be far more effective coming into the line than Halfpenny

Wings – pick themselves. No competition

Centres – T’eo has been the standout. Worth seeing how J Davies gets on as he’s played very little and looked encouraging the other day before coming off injured. I still think Sexton and Farrell might be a better bet

HB : Sexton worth another go at 10 now he’s settled. Murray – standout, no competition

Front row – all 3 stand out. Test front row in my opinion. Good test for George as Owens is waiting in the wings

2nd row – so competitive. I think Kruis is nailed on. Itoje is arguably in pole position for the other spot but AWJ and Lawes have very strong competing claims

Back row : Falatea nailed on. The 2 O’s played really well last week and definitely merit another start to press their claims. Warburton must only be 50:50 to start the test. CJS wasn’t particularly good the other day which might give an opening for O’M, who has looked mightily impressive so far whenever he’s come on. Furthermore, he must be doing wonders off the pitch too as he’s been named captain. The first non Welsh captain of the tour ! Interesting that Gatlands picked him as captain above Sexton – maybe just let Sexton play without the responsibility of being captain? Indeed looking at the team, the only other contender is probably O’B. As for the test team, don’t discount Tipuric either as he’s a classic 7.

Bench – test squad won’t have Henderson as there are 2 better second rows than him, nor Laidlaw,  as it will be Webb, nor Biggar, if Farrell is fit (unless he plays Sexton and Farrell). Daly might get in there for his flexibility. Interesting what might happen to Joseph? I think his defensive lapses might count against him.

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