Form Over Function

The Lions team for the first test was announced at 8pm (our time) last night.

Before I talk about Gatland’s selections v the one I would have selected (yesterday’s ‘A Heavy responsibility’ post), I wanted to indicate what the biggest disappointment for me is.

The Lions is supposed to be the one time that the 4 home nations actually come together to create a side that can tour and take on the best of the Southern Hemisphere.

You wouldn’t have thought so after the team was announced, there was an outcry of complaints over who was in (and out). No problem with that, there are bound to be disagreements – however the ‘nationalistic’ bias of the moaning made you think that maybe the Lions is a dead concept after all.

The Welsh howled at the omission of George North and Sam Warburton, the Irish were upset that Johnny wasn’t starting, the English wanted Maro on the pitch at the ko and the Scots would have been happy if any of theirs was even on the bench!

By contrast the news from the camp was that those who had the most right to be disappointed, were actually the most supportive of the lucky 23 who will carry the hopes of (sadly) 4 nations on Saturday.

The team I chose yesterday was right from 1-9 but had Johnny instead of Ben and Leigh rather than Elliott.

I was wrong, but at least I wasn’t trying to pack as many English blokes into the side as possible just because I was born on this side of the Severn and south of Hawick.

I think the side has been picked on a combination of form rather than reputation and with a style that Gatland wants to play (or try and play).

Coming into the tour, Stuart Hogg had always been favourite to beat Leigh Halfpenny to the 15 shirt because of his attacking ability. You have to assume that Liam Williams is there to take on that role.

I wanted the combo of Owen and Johnny to create uncertainty in the All Blacks defence – but I appreciate that ben is probably best to take on the muscularity of SBW.

The bench offers much from 60 minutes – not least the introduction of Maro, Sam, Jack et al.

Backs: 15 Liam Williams (Wales); 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Jonathan Davies (Wales), 12 Ben Te’o (England), 11 Elliot Daly (England); 10 Owen Farrell (England), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland);

Forwards: 1 Mako Vunipola (England), 2 Jamie George (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland); 4 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 5 George Kruis (England); 6 Peter O’Mahony – captain (Ireland), 7 Sean O’Brien (Ireland), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Jack McGrath (Ireland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Maro Itoje (England), 20 Sam Warburton (Wales), 21 Rhys Webb (Wales), 22 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 23 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales).

The biggest concern for me is not the selections but Warren Gatland’s statement that ‘the Lions will attack more than they have all tour’

If Warren Gatland is trying to confuse the All Blacks about what tactics his British and Irish Lions will use in the first Test, he’s doing a pretty decent job.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Gatland spoke with energy about unfurling an attacking brand against the world champions at Eden Park.

Maybe this is just chucking a grenade at the ABs management to confuse them – but I think it is a worry if he means it.

England in 1991 arrived at the World Cup final on the back of a much criticised style of ‘boring’ rugby.

When they tried to open up in the final with a game plan that had not been used and was alien, they left Twickenham with the silver medal.

I was in the stands with Rich that day and we would have given anything to have won sticking to a boring game. If it’s effective, that’s all that counts!

Roll on Saturday.

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