It’s just over 24 hours before Warren Gatland announces his Lions squad for New Zealand.
Up until last night there had been little news from the coaching team regarding the selection of players much less the style that they would adopt in order to try and bring down the World Champions in the three match test series.
That changed yesterday when there were some leaks regarding the selection process – these were initially from the Telegraph, but the other media soon picked up on them. In the past the Telegraph has mostly been on the money with advanced indications of this sort.
The rumours were exclusively in relation to England players who are likely to miss out plus a few who look to be definitely on the plane.
According to the leak the high profile players not required are Jonathan Joseph, Joe Launchbury, Chris Robshaw, George Ford, Mike Brown and James Haskell. On the plus side it said Ben Te’o. Kyle Sinckler, Mako, Dan Cole and Joe Marler are all getting a red shirt.
Presumably Billy and Maro are a given.
Dylan Hartley’s inclusion is apparently subject to a final selection meeting this lunchtime.
Joe Launchbury is a hell of a player but the competition at lock is so intense that at least 2 or 3 big names were always going to be disappointed – it seems like Joe is one of them.
Of all those mentioned I think there is only one huge surprise – Jonathan Joseph. I think this, if it turns out to be accurate is the strongest indication of how Warren and his coaches plan to take on the All Blacks.
By sheer brute force rather than trying to play the ABs at their own game – more Warren Ballistic than Ball.
It may well work too – even wearing the most red tinted glasses, the skill set required to outplay them at open rugby is just not available to Warren. Much less on the road at Eden Park (twice) and Wellington. The AB record in Auckland is now better than the list below and they haven’t lost there since 1994
But suffocating them as Ireland did in Chicago has shown how they can be outmuscled – dragging their forwards into mauls, pounding them at the set piece and giving them less time to go wide.
Even then you have to be careful when kicking to them and hound them into mistakes. – otherwise they will cut you to pieces.
At the weekend Beauden Barrett showed, even in an error strewn game, how he can take control and punish you at will.
If Jonathan Joseph misses the cut I will be disappointed for him – Joseph together with Stuart Hogg, Liam Williams and Gary Ringrose, have shown some sparkling running that is a delight to watch. On the basis of yesterday’s leak I don’t expect any of them to make the Lions XV for the first test.
I do wonder though if England had lost to Ireland in the first or second 6 N game and played Scotland last at Twickenham – would they really have left Joseph and his amazing technicoloured feet behind?
The final game is the one that always sticks in the mind I guess.
I don’t know if this will be Warren’s game plan – we’ll know more this time tomorrow about the make-up of the squad.
I do recall Eddie Jones saying that it is daft to try and develop the same style as the All Blacks and teams should create their own way to win. Ireland did that last year and I suspect that of all the leaves he has turned over it is the one from Joe Schmidt’s book that he has settled on.