A British & Irish Lions Squad Recap.
We take a sensible look at the players picked and the noise surrounding the squad announcement. Who has said what and where they said it. We’ll even give the Kiwi press their say.
Right, the big cat is out of the bag. Sam Warburton will be only the second player to captain the British & Irish Lions in successive tours. Didn’t stop head of World Rugby, Brett Gosper, from putting his head through the cat flap a touch prematurely. Luckily, it was the worst kept secret since we discovered Donald Trump uses Fake Tan and Just for Men in his morning routine. CEO Brett still looked daft and received a damn fine pillorying on Twitter. Will Carling even suggested that perhaps we were getting to the point where a press conference is superfluous. But we need to thank the sponsors, Will.
Captain Sam received a warm welcome at the Hilton but then he would. On social media, we are not so sure… Someone called Evelyn seemed to think that he was the wrong captain and Dylan Hartley should have been there instead. The result will now be certain defeat. A few Facebookers suggested he was injured and therefore out of form. Injured? Certainly. Out of form beforehand? Quite the opposite. He’ll probably benefit from the rest. Talking practically surely it makes sense for a coaching team to choose someone who has done it before and who they know. With such a short amount of time to prepare we don’t want them sitting in a room together trying to bond, do we?
As for the squad. Now that really has got everyone on social media all a quiver. Many from all nations are suggesting that Nicola Sturgeon will be calling for a re-selection immediately. Graham Love has re-drawn the Lions Badge to reduce The Scots to an apostrophe and The Welsh badge to take its place. Anthony Moriaty has named Shirley Bassey and Rhys Ifans in his squad. And even gives Alex Cuthbert another go. Egg Purchaser thinks Joe Calzaghe ought to be selected and Ian Woosnam have a try out at loose head.
On Facebook, a gentleman named Duncan Gellalty is especially angry. He rips in to Gatland and suggests it is a tour for the boys with AWJ the 8th best second row in the British Isles. To make his point he asks why Gavin Henson isn’t going. Now, that is silly. Even our accountant Di runs faster. Duncan finishes his rant with something about the coach undermining the very ethos this great sport is based upon. It would be fair to say he is supported on Facebook. I think he is a bit pompous.
A lot of folks are mystified by Launchbury’s omission. A fake BBC page suggests he change his name by deed-poll to Llaunchbury. Clever that. I can see Messrs Borthwick and Gatland butting heads over that issue. But the latter is the boss and arguably the 3 English players he has taken are that bit nastier. He does know AWJ well. The man is a leader and pretty mean with it. I suspect George Kruis might count himself lucky.
In the backs, there will have been a lot of bleating about Jamie Roberts possibly getting another go. There will be some relief that he didn’t. Jonathan Joseph is a good pick. There is a bit of a shortage of dancing feet. I hope they don’t go missing as they are prone to do. Jared Payne and Ben Te’o are allegedly there to provide a bit of insider knowledge. Not sure that is true. Both are better than that. We want to be there when the latter runs into Sonny Bill.
What of those under represented Scots? Stuart Hogg been a definite for a while now. I hope he starts. Goal kicking is covered elsewhere so Halfpenny can play during the week. He runs beautifully, has fantastic hands and great game awareness. Plus, he is the same height as our accountant, Di. As for Tommy Seymour, according to our very own Mike Pyrgos – father of Scottish scrum-half, Henry – he has been the “most consistent wing in the 6 Nations over the past 2 years and is top try scorer in the Pro 12. Plus, he’s a top bloke”. That’s settled that, then.
For the others not mentioned? I am pleased Eliot Daly is going. The man makes it look easy and creates time and space for others. The battle for scrum half will be interesting. I suspect it’ll be down a lot to who plays at 10. Murray & Sexton will probably be favourite currently.
What do the Kiwis think? Gregor Paul of the NZ Herald is sure the “Lions are bluffing about an expansive game.” He cites the differences in interpretation of creativity between North and South. And, Warren Gatland has low risk rugby as his “modus operandi”. Certainly, his selection alludes to this philosophy – as well as his past.
Gatlands’s counterpart, Steve Hansen, agrees, “I’ve never seen him do anything else other than that. I guess we need to be prepared for what we normally get and prepare for something different as well.” Very astute, Steve. Or a good start at gamesmanship. It is safe to say that they are expecting a territory and attrition game. Or flat out war.
What do we think? Like Andrew Ashenhurst on Facebook, we hope the whingeing from all nations will stop. It’s happened. People never get their own way and hate being called out as wrong. Whatever happens it will not be as bad as the 2005 tour and Sir Clive’s efforts. Gatland has earned this go at his homeland. He’s been right before. Remember?
Personally, I believe we can give a pretty good account and maybe return victorious. Lorri in flights thinks it’ll be a draw. David, in our Belfast office, is so excited he can’t concentrate but if pushed he will say 3-0 to the Lions. Patrick, our MD, just thinks it will be close. Di, the accountant only hopes we bring home the receipts. Owen predicts a white wash. Not a black wash. Nor a red wash. Charlotte just closes her eyes and prays Dan Carter will be nearby.
Whatever happens let us come together as one wall of noise to shout from the clubhouses between here, Thomond Park and the home of the Cornish Pirates and celebrate all that is great about the British & Irish Lions. #ALLFORONE.
JAMES HALLETT – LWTL SPORTS TRAVEL