Thursday, 18 June 2009

73.33%, not bad

The Lions team for the First Test in Durban has now been announced. How does it compare with my original selection from March, before the touring party had even been selected? Well, I've compared below.

I did rather well in getting 11 out of 15 (I've included in my score the two positions where my original selections were injured but their places were filled from my list of second choice contenders). The four I got wrong - Vickery, Heaslip, Stephen Jones and Monye (one of my contenders but not a win for me as my first choice of Shane Williams was available but not selected)  - are all choices I would agree with now on the basis of form and availability.

I wish my predictive powers extended to relatively non-trivial matters. Or at least matters that I had a bet on: I put a tenner on Chris Huhne as the next Speaker at excellently long but now totally justified odds.

1. Gethin Jenkins - check
2. Jerry Flannery - Lee Mears. Flannery was injured before the tour started and as Mears was in my list of second choice contenders I've awarded myself this one.
3. Adam Jones - Phil Vickery. Must have been a close decision but fair enough: the Raging Bull has been back to his best form.
4. Alun Wyn Jones - check
5. Paul O'Connell - check
6. Tom Croft - check
7. David Wallace - check. But having seen both him and Martyn Williams play on tour I would now go for the latter.
8. Andy Powell - Jamie Heaslip. Defenders appear to have worked Powell out.
9. Mike Phillips - check.
10. James Hook - Stephen Jones. I would still go for Hook for his unpredictability, but he's injured anyway.
11. Shane Williams - Ugo Monye. I had Monye in my list of contenders but haven't given myself a point here as Williams is available for selection. I think Shane's gone off the boil as defenders have worked him out, as with Powell.
12. Gavin Henson - Jamie Roberts. But Henson was injured before the tour started and Roberts was my second choice so I've awarded myself this one.
13. Brian O'Driscoll - check
14. Tommy Bowe - check
15. Lee Byrne - check

How will this selection do on Saturday? I'm reasonably hopeful. But my biggest doubts stem from the inability of the Lions pack(s) to alter the point of attack through 'pop' passing and controlled use of the rolling maul. They're going to ground too quickly and getting isolated and this has been one of the main reasons for their getting pinged so much at the breakdown. It's also a factor in their not being able to cut loose with the scoring despite having plenty of possession. Without having more dynamism and variety up front, the SA forwards - who are some of the best defenders in the business - may well find it very straightforward to contain the Lions. Let's hope Gatland has some manoeuvres up his sleeve.

There are plenty of grounds for hope, however. The boys are undefeated for a start. And then there is the strange decision not to have the SA squad play over the last few weeks. I may be mistaken but wasn't this one of the reasons for the Boks downfall in 1997 where a battle-hardened Lions caught their opponents a bit cold?


Sean said...

No Mr Gloucestershire Welsh, I am going for the Boks. 97 the lions were better, thats the difference, in better I mean more together and thats the important thing about the Lions, when you put a team together of player who dont play with one another at all, its a very tough ask to get them to play well in a few weeks and beat the best if not the best in the world.

Hope I am wrong, and I suppose thats the point of the Lions, its always a tough ask for them.

Lets hope the first tackle on this tour is not a spear on the captain?

Gaw said...

Not sure this lot are any less together than the '97 lot. Mind you, '97 may have been a more talented group of individuals. A few back from rugby league too, which then represented a big step up in professionalism (remember Bath v Wigan!).

How about a tenner on it? Make it a bit more interesting...

Sean said...

OK, If lose, Ill put a tenner in the local hospice box, you lose you do the same?

Is the bet the series or just Saturday.

Gaw said...

Okey doke. Just for Saturday.

Gaw said...

At one point I was thinking I was lucky to only lose £10. Best chance gone though now, I would have thought.

Chekov said...

Too many needless penalties given away and too many chances wasted. Although the last half hour will give the Lions heart for the upcoming tests.

Sean said...

Yep altitude is not going to be a good wicket for us is it?

Open play the lions were very good, but the breakdown scrummage and all the stuff that matters in team rugby is were they lost it, and thats my main point, its very hard to get this stuff right in a few weeks no matter how good the individual players are.

Your full A team need a couple of outings at the very least, this poker stuff that goes on I dont think really works, get your front and back lines playing together asap.

It was a very good game though, and its not impossible from here, and the lions open play will worry the boks and they might get their tactics wrong in responding to it.

Better preparation and who knows?

Gaw said...

I like Vickery but I think it's fair to say he lost the game for the Lions. I think it was 6 points directly from penalties plus a try that came from a penalty kicked into the corner. He's slimmed down for the loose but looked too light for the scrummage. He was mashed.

I haven't lost hope as I think they've got a good brains trust in the backroom. But I wouldn't put another tenner on them!

Sean said...

I think thats hard on Vickery, the beast is one of the best there is, its a team effort to stop him..on to the veldt.

Gaw said...

I take no pleasure in criticising Vicks. But Adam Jones secured the scrum when he came on and provided a platform for attack: it was pretty black and white. Sometimes individuals just aren't good enough on the day, and it's very sad that that day it was Vickery.