The Final Prediction

There’s only a day left until Warren Gatland names his Lions squad. No matter what every other person associated with rugby has had to say on who’ll be in the Lions squad, this is the only one that matters. 

“I learned more from that experience as a coach than any other,” 

Graham Henry

The last Lions tour to Australia was also coached by a Kiwi, and that wasn’t a great success but this time Australia aren’t half the team they were. Graham Henry has even admitted that he had made some bad decisions on that tour. Personally I believe that taking Austin Healey to Australia was one of those decisions.

I though about predicting the squad but since there’s been so many predictions in the Sunday papers I’m sure that you don’t want to read another one. Therefore I’ll just mention some names that are on the fringe of the squad:

Jonny Wilkinson:

He played superbly once again on the weekend but I don’t think Wilko will tour again with the Lions. Apparently Gatland isn’t keen on selecting players who will feature in the Top 14 final as the Lions play the Barbarians on that day, and it’s likely that Toulon will feature in that game. On the other hand it is expected Gethin Jenkins will travel with the Lions for that game as he may be released by Toulon to go. I’ve heard that the Lions may pay Toulon for him to be released as well. Who knows?! But I’m sure Melon will be touring with all the other Lions. But back to Jonny Wilkinson – despite the fact that we are quite weak in the outside-half position in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, I think Gatland will see it difficult to pick him as he hasn’t played international rugby for a while.

Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell will be going, but I’m very worried that he isn’t good enough yet to start for the Lions. Once again on Saturday, as happened against Biggar, he was outclassed by Wilkinson and doesn’t seem the finished article yet. Saying that, Farrell will benefit highly from touring with the team and we may see him becoming the starting outside-half if Sexton struggles to hit form once he recovers from his injury. Gatland of course is a huge fan of Priestland as he showed during the Autumn Internationals and may go with him because of Farrell’s inconsistency – but I think Priestland has been out for too long for Gatland to pick him.

Ken Owens

I think Ken Owens will be one of the ‘surprises’ tomorrow. Hibbard and Rory Best are certainties, but I’m not convinced that Tom Youngs will offer half as much as Owens. Richard Hibbard looks likely to start and Cannonball Ken is more capable than Best of making an impact in a game from the bench. Saying that, Owens has played for Wales much more when Gatland has been away.

Ian Madigan / James Hook

Gatland is on record in saying that he wants to take to Outside-Halves and one Utility player. Therefore it is one of these two players that will be travelling with the Lions and personally I hope it will be Madigan. From what I saw of him against Wasps he looked very capable of doing a job and apparently they rate him very highly in Leinster. Declan Kidney maybe should have gone with him in the Six Nations.

Christian Wade

He’s been compared to Jason Robinson and looks as though he will be a great player but I think the Lions will pick wingers that have made an impression on the international level. I don’t think Gatland would have any problems in picking Sean Maitland or Tim Visser and I believe that’s what he will do but I’m not certain. In the past for Wales though, Gatland hasn’t been afraid to surprise with his selection for Wales by choosing Tom Prydie and Kristian Phillips one year which didn’t quite work, but his gamble with George North was a bit more successful.

The announcement will be made at 11:00 tomorrow at Syon Park Hilton, in West London, and personally I cannot wait.

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New Statement on Central Contracts from the Welsh Rugby Union


The WRU invites representatives from each of the four regional organisations to a meeting at the Millennium Stadium to discuss the contracting centrally of key Welsh rugby talent.

The WRU asks the four regional organisations to put aside their agreement not to play centrally contracted players and work with the Union to help secure the future of our young players in Wales.

The WRU will table, in advance of the meeting, a range of detailed options to be discussed, in addition to those already proposed, so that the four regional organisations are fully prepared to take part in a meaningful debate.

The WRU would also welcome suggestions from the four regional organisations on how best a centrally contracted player system would work to help safeguard Welsh rugby.

The WRU will be formally writing to the four regional organisations this morning, Tuesday April 2nd.

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Post Six Nations: Lions XV

I still don’t think that everyone in Wales has recovered from Saturday night to be honest. What a weekend it was. The Decider. Wales v England. And the game certainly lived up to its expectation.

I was lucky enough to have a ticket for the game and the ‘atmosphere’ in the stadium was truly unbelievable. The entrance of the Welsh team was out of this world and I doubt that even a Superbowl match would create such a buzz in the stadium. I remember standing up for the anthems and getting blown away with how loud ‘God Save The Queen’ was. But the response was amazing, and I’ve watched ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ a few times after Saturday.

Anyway, here’s my Lions XV:

  1. Gethin Jenkins
  2. Richard Hibbard
  3. Adam Jones
  4. Geoff Parling
  5. Alun-Wyn Jones
  6. Ryan Jones
  7. Sam Warburton
  8. Jamie Heaslip
  9. Mike Phillips
  10. Owen Farrell
  11. George North
  12. Manu Tuilagi
  13. Jonathan Davies
  14. Leigh Halfpenny
  15. Stuart Hogg

Also I quite like the idea of Alun-Wyn Jones as the captain as Shane Williams has suggested. What is difficult about selecting a Lions side though, is that if I were to name my side tomorrow, there’d be a few changes from this side.

Please feel free to comment with your Lions XV.

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Rhys Priestland speaks about his achilles injury with Sean Holley

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A great blog from ‘cornelsiobhan’ on the state of Welsh rugby.

cornelsiobhan

When you try and explain the situation of Welsh rugby to those outside of Wales, you’re often met with blank looks. Hell, when you try and explain it to those in Wales, you still get blank looks!

Nothing in Welsh rugby is ever simple. With the knack of holding grudges, of personal agendas, of cutting noses off to spite their faces Welsh rugby often sees people working at their worst. The flip side of that is that Welsh rugby can also bring the very best out in people. The camaraderie, the sense of community and the sheer passion that Welsh people can provide and generate in rugby is something that is to be truly celebrated.

The WRU is charged with nurturing, developing, sustaining and promoting the game throughout Wales. When it comes to the international stage you would have to say that they do a good job. The facilities, the…

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The Six Nations – The Halfway Mark

Wales v Argentina 2012

We’re about halfway through the Six Nations Championship and we’ve seen the best, and the not so great, of Rugby in the first two weekends.

The opening weekend was brilliant with England v Scotland a great open game with a few tries and attacking, from all over the field. Wales v Ireland was a game of two-halves (excuse the cliché). Wales played as they had done in the Autumn Internationals in the first half, but then showed what they were capable of in the second. Italy defeating France was amazing, and the fact that they managed to outplay the World Cup runners-up was incredible…so incredible in fact that I decided to put a pound down on Italy winning the Grand Slam – it may have been something to do with Dai Lama’s Six Nations Drinking Game!!!

The fixtures in the second round of the Six Nations looked to be even more tasty than the first weekend of games – Scotland v Italy, France v Wales and Ireland v France. Unfortunately these games did not live up to their promise and it turned out that the better game was Scotland v Italy.

A special mention must be given to Stuart Hogg from the first two games. Hogg has been a live-wire in the Scottish back-line and has built on his introduction to the international game last year. Stuart Hogg is one of the youngsters that could be lucky enough to travel to Australia with the Lions, and after what I’ve seen of him in the first two rounds he deserves to be in the squad. The twenty-year-old is a great attacker and is comfortable in defence as well. His decision to intercept the Italian pass that would have finished with a try was a brave gamble, and would have meant that the Italians would be back in contention of the game. But, the gamble paid off and it proved to be a fourteen-pointer for Scotland, and the killer-blow for Sergio Parisse’s men.

Thinking back to age-grade rugby – often you’d see the coach who would be one of the dads, choosing his son to play for the team even though there was a better option. Even the cynics can’t say this about Owen Farrell’s place in the England team. One of the battles in the Ireland v England match was that of the outside-halves. Unfortunately the contest between Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell came to an end early on. While the two players were on the pitch though, Farrell seemed the most competent – and at the moment is the front-runner for the Lions’ number ten shirt. Unfortunately for me, I bet five pounds with my mate, on Jonathan Sexton being the outside-half against Australia in the first test. Now, I’m not so sure! The game between the Irish and the English didn’t live up to our expectations, but we learnt from that match that England look like the real deal.

Defence dominated the France v Wales match. Dan Biggar’s chip and George North’s strong finish was enough to beat the French who are having a torrid campaign. The highlight of the match came twenty-four hours after the match however, when BBC’s Scrum V announced that the ‘fan’ that had come onto the pitch to celebrate George North’s try, was in fact George North’s Dad. To top it off we also saw one of the giants of the game, Jamie Roberts, weeping in delight of the victory in a post-match interview. That just shows you what the try and the victory meant to Welsh rugby.

On to Round Three!!

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Welshman predicts Saturday’s result against Ireland

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Wales v Ireland: The Welsh Team

It looks as if the Welsh team for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland has been leaked.

The team seems to be doing the rounds on Twitter and blogs such as Gwlad Rugby.  The Western Mail have now run the story on their website as well.

So here it is:

  1. Gethin Jenkins
  2. Matthew Rees
  3. Adam Jones
  4. Andrew Coombs
  5. Ian Evans
  6. Aaron Shingler
  7. Sam Warburton
  8. Toby Faletau
  9. Mike Philips
  10. Dan Biggar
  11. George North
  12. Jamie Roberts
  13. Jon Davies
  14. Alex Cuthbert
  15. Leigh Halfpenny

The official announcement is expected today (Thursday), around 13:00.

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SOS: Save Our Scrums

Here’s an interesting blog on the situation of scrums in Rugby SOS: Save Our Scrums.

The scrum has become too influential in the game, and with so much time being wasted on them – Rugby will not attract supporters. People want to see a tough open game, not a technical brawl where the officials in control of the game, are being accused weekly that they do not know what is going on.

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Lions Greats: Carwyn James

On this day (10th of January) in 1983, one of the greatest coaches in Rugby Union, Carwyn James died aged fifty-three.

Carwyn James was the Lions coach on the famous 1971 tour to New Zealand, the first test series win for the Lions against the mighty All Blacks. Only a year later, he led Llanelli Rugby Club to a famous victory once again over New Zealand.

Despite being one of the most successful coaches in world rugby, he never had the opportunity of coaching Wales. This was not because he didn’t want to coach his own country, but due to the fact that the Welsh Rugby Union did not feel he was suitable for the job.

Despite not becoming Wales’s rugby coach, he represented his country twice on the pitch as an Outside Half.

The general consensus is that this coach was way ahead of his time.

Here’s a great video portraying his life from BBC Wales’s documentary series ‘Welsh Greats’.

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