When it comes to picking the Lions starting XV for the first Test most pundits and former players are pretty much in agreement.
It seems everyone has the same 12 or so names, with differences maybe at hooker, number 8, and loose-head prop - but I thought I would have my two penneth and set off down a slightly different avenue.
Cast your mind back to the final weekend of the Six Nations tournament and the Wales versus England match at the Millennium Stadium.
On that occasion Rob Howley (presumably after a phone call or two with Warren Gatland) picked both Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric in his starting line-up.
The rest, as they say, is history. Wales didn't just beat England, they thrashed them by a record margin. The same England that had recently trounced the All Blacks.
I will admit that Tipuric did not have his best game against the Brumbies, but he has plenty of credit in the bank.
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When it comes to the back-row, the accepted reasoning over here in Brisbane seems to be that the Lions have to pick Croft at 6 because of his lineout prowess. Makes sense at first.
Until you remember that in Cardiff, on March 16, the lineout was pretty indecisive. Messrs Croft and Parling were both playing that day, but I don't remember Wales being denied decent set-piece possession.
What I do remember is poor old Chris Robshaw and co getting a right old pasting down on the deck and Wales winning decisive turnover ball. Sometimes it was Warburton, sometimes it was Tipuric. Toby Faletau was also pretty useful in the loose and carried brilliantly that day.
My big concern heading in to the first Test is that the Wallaby breakaway, Michael Hooper, gets to be remembered as the player of the series. This guy, as I'm sure you know, is one serious operator at the breakdown. The Aussies always seem to be superb in this area.
My misgivings were compounded by what happened in the Brumbies match in Canberra. I will admit that Tipuric did not have his best game that night, but he has plenty of credit in the bank as far as I am concerned, while Faletau was one of the Lions' few bright lights on a dark and cold evening.
In my view this series will be decided by the side that wins the battle of the breakdown, not the battle of scrum nor the battle of the lineout.
So here is my team. It is certainly NOT the one that I expect the Lions selectors to pick., but what the heck, it's a free country:
15: LEE HALFPENNY
14: ALEX CUTHBERT
13: BRIAN O'DRISCOLL
12: JONATHAN DAVIES
11: GEORGE NORTH
10: JONATHAN SEXTON
9: MIKE PHILLIPS
1: ALEX CORBISIERO
2: TOM YOUNGS
3: ADAM JONES
4: ALUN WYN JONES
5: PAUL O'CONNELL
6: SAM WARBURTON (C)
7: JUSTIN TIPURIC
8: TOBY FALETAU
16: RICHARD HIBBARD
17: MAKO VUNIPOLA
18: DAN COLE
19: GEOFF PARLING
20: TOM CROFT
21: BEN YOUNGS
22: OWEN FARRELL
23: ROB KEARNEY
Right, I have my tin hat on, so hit me with your comments please!
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Trevor Thomas says...
Lions have to play to their strengths and this is their finishing in the backs. They have to have a secure set piece in a tight game that Tipuric ( I feel is not suited to). I think Warburton with O'Brien at 6 would be a better option his defence is equal to Croft and his ball carrying superior. With the locks and 8 (Heaslip) securing the lineout. As an aside their kicking game has been poor. I think Phillips at 9 is a questionable choice in light of first test(poor kicking and passing) and would start with Youngs in the 2nd Welsh Lions fan
Posted 00:13 23rd June 2013
Thomas Fothringham says...
The fact that Wales haven't beaten Australia for some time is not relevant. The team playing on Saturday is THE LIONS, not Wales, or England (who also lost to Australia last year) or any other single home nation. If your only criterion is to pick players from a home nation team that beats Australia, then you would pick Scotland, who have beaten Australia in their last two matches. (And yes, I do know that it wasn't a full Australia team last summer.) Given Scotland's current standing in world rugby, that shows just how ridiculous a single criterion is. Can we all now get behind THE LIONS instead of bickering about whether Wales or England are better, and writing off certain matches as "one-offs"? They all count!
Posted 12:11 20th June 2013
Jon Cliffe says...
Some of the comments from the "welsh - centrics" make me chuckle, how often have wales won in Australia or anywhere else for that matter. They are basing there comments on one win against a very young England side ( it wont happen again). Are there memories so short that they forget England sides were regularly putting 30, 40 and 50 ( check the facts) on Wales and will do so again soon . George North I rate highly but a lot of them are lucky that Gatland is coach. Wake up and smell the leeks.
Posted 05:23 20th June 2013
Dean Malpas says...
Some valid points and as usual some ridiculous retorts. It is just because we are playing Australia C Ennis that you need more ability on the ground (have you watched any super 15?). And another poster..Kearney? I think you'll find HalfP offers far more across the board these days..to include a world class boot. Gats won't of course pick this side but for what it's worth I agree with the poster who said if you pick croft you pick faletau and if you pick heaslip you pick Lydiate otherwise we will have two show ponies watching Hooper steal all day...
Posted 00:45 20th June 2013
Bob Bob says...
Some of the comments on here a puzzling One suggesting Hook should be playing ahead of Sexton. Gatland and Howley don't even pick him for the the Welsh team and he is a better player than a person who is regarded as one of the the best outhalf in the Northern Hemisphere. Picking the Welsh back row because they played well against England even though they got beaten by Wales by Australia with a similar back row, now please don't go on about it was only by a kick of the ball. I am sure the Brumbies as not bemoaning the fact the beat the lions by only 2. The team will be similar to the team that played on Saturday as any player who played 60/70 mins on Tuesday cannot play on Saturday which probably rules out Falateau. North and Cuthbert will come on in the wing although I would use Zebo and North on the wings as Cuthbert will over little to the play bar a great finish. Team Halfpenny North BOD Davies Cuthbert (prefer Zebo) Philips Sexton Heaslip Warburton Croft AWJ O'Connell Corbisiero Hibbard Jones Subs Vanikola Youngs Cole Parling O'Brien Youngs (after the mare the last day could be Murray) Farrell Hogg
Posted 20:00 19th June 2013
Jimmy Wilde says...
ah the old welsh hate surfaces again... interesting use of the word trounced when mentioning wales v aus games. it would not make a trouncing if you added up the points difference in the last 4 games. as for tipuric having a 'shocker', really? best had a shocker. wade was shocking in defence. tipuric was average. and please feel free to tell me how it was the welsh 2nd team that shared the series in japan. i made it 28 absent before i stopped counting. despite all the jealousy surrounding the selection of welsh players i just hope the lions win. i would like to think that half a dozen non-welsh players would improve the team enough to overcome the 2 point (max) difference of the last 3 encounters.
Posted 18:43 19th June 2013
Darren Brady says...
I love the fact that Welsh supporters support the fact that their players outplayed England in the 6N but don't subscribe to the view that the Aussies eat them for breakfast. If the welsh back row had done so well against the Aussies then fair enough, but beating England and beating Australia are two very different nuts to crack. Please take, as Gats has said, form is the key indicator and therefore Tips, who was my choice instead of Warbs, will be replaced by Croft/Lydiate depending on the game plan. Faletau should be N8 but it seems they have gone for Heaslip which may favour O'Brien. Whatever the choice made please don't constantly refer to one game without referring to others ie. 6N not WC or AIs
Posted 18:05 19th June 2013
Anthony Smith says...
Your team and like many of the comments is so Welsh led. They did thump England in Cardiff and fair play to them, however that was a one off game .As an earlier e mail stated they lost many games before the 6 nations and their second string has just lost to mighty Japan.Does any one honestly think England would stuff NZ again like they did in Nov? They wont and nor will Wales ever do that to England again.Anyone who thinks that is not from this planet. Croft deserves his place on merit. There are enough excellent Welsh boys in the team[rightly so]There are some good English ones as well, who deserve a go
Posted 16:07 19th June 2013
Conor Ennis says...
Ridiculous opinion based on one game against England. But they arent playing England are they Phil?? No they are playing Australia (In case you werent aware)! A team Wales havent beaten in how many attempts?? Cmon sky sports you can do better than this lad.
Posted 16:07 19th June 2013
Dave Benson-fibbs says...
I've no problem with an all-Wales back row in priciple however I can't see Croft being left out. I am in no way saying he is the best 6 but he does bring attributes to the table that no other 6 does (arguably in the world). Line out presence is an obvious shout but for someone to say his defence is average is an absolute joke and open play pace, direction and ability is not touched by Lydiate, Tipuric/Warburton (whichever you prefer at 6) or the hugely overrated O'Brien. It also pains me to think Maitland might start, I'd how the Welsh back three in the backs rather than the pack!
Posted 14:18 19th June 2013
Diarmuid Kelleher says...
Why stop at the back row. Why not an all Welsh 15 and send the rest back home. Think you've been eating to many leeks boyo.
Posted 14:14 19th June 2013
Ryan Cullen says...
Corbs,Youngs,Jones,O'Connell, Gray, Croft, Warbs, Heaslip, Phillips, Sexton, North, Davies, BOD, Zebo, 1/2p. Hibbard, Mako,Cole, AWJ, Youngs, Farrell, Kearney
Posted 13:56 19th June 2013
Laurence Robertson says...
Given the choice of referee for the first test I think the breakdown will be the key area so I think there's merit in your logic - however, O'Brien had a better game than Tipuric against the Brumbies so I think he would be a better bet.
Posted 13:48 19th June 2013
Alan Andrews says...
I agree with Croft being left out. A great athlete and line out operator yes, but that's not enough. A 6 needs to get through a lot more hard work in close than he does and his defence is only average. Also, Cuthbert lacks a bit for me, so Halfpenny/Kearney as 15/14 and if Bowe does get back to fitness he must play and a straight choice between Halfpenny/Kearney for 15. And kicking goals is not enough on it's own to get in the team
Posted 13:18 19th June 2013
Niall Guing says...
Agree with what your saying but if Croft doesn't star I don't see a reason to have him on the bench when there ate better impact players SOB or Lydiate offer way more then Croft
Posted 13:15 19th June 2013
Peter Evans says...
The only weekness for the Lions test side is at 10 . Neither are good enough . Time to call up Hooky
Posted 13:08 19th June 2013
Tom Mac says...
I'm pretty sure that'll be the squad. Can't agree with Croft not starting though. He's been the from flanker of the tour, is great at the set piece, the breakdown and is a legitimate ball carrying threat - while Tipuric is very good, I don't think he's on the same level as Croft. Both should be in the gameday 23 though.
Posted 12:46 19th June 2013
Cobi Robinson says...
Surely you can't base your views on that one game in cardiff though, England had a lack of balance across the entire side that day with no recognised 7 or 8 in the back row and a front row that was going backwards from the start. If you look at England versus New Zealand where the break down was won ( against the mighty Mccaw ) it shows the irregularity of rugby. Also didn't this welsh back row get trounced 9 times in a row by Australia and 4 times in 2012?
Posted 12:46 19th June 2013
Sean Casey says...
Phil. The lineout was indecisive in Wales. It won't be on Saturday. YOU HAVE TO WIN YOUR OWN BALL!! Tipuric had a shocker on Tuesday and reputation or "credit" counts for zip. The series will be decided on who scores the most points and Croft is a back row try scoring machine. Couldn't disagree more with your argument for Tipuric.
Posted 12:33 19th June 2013
Andy Kavanagh says...
Interesting but your selection has been based on the six nations game. This is about the Lions v Aussies a different game completely and Wales have a hopeless record against the Aussies and up to the england game in the 6N had looked pretty unimpressive. I think the strategy of playing the game on the floor will play into the Aussies hands, the Irish choke tackle will take their game away therefore I would opt for a more Irish back row combo.
Posted 12:29 19th June 2013