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,”
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:
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 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.
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.
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.