British & Irish Lions
Did Warren Gatland get the big decisions right?
May 1, 2013
Warren Gatland congratulates Lions captain Sam Warburton on his appointment © Getty Images
Following Tuesday's British & Irish Lions squad announcement, the latest edition of Tackling Rugby looks at whether Warren Gatland made the right calls by taking a snapshot of views from shores both near and far.
Tim Horan in the Courier Mail:
"I'm guessing Robbie Deans slept soundly on Tuesday night. After months of selection debate, the announcement of the 37-man Lions squad was beamed live from London to Australia late in the evening. Ultimately, it was a solid squad without being spectacular. There was certainly nothing that would have kept Deans or the Wallabies awake, staring anxiously at the ceiling. The Lions tour party is stocked with good players in every position but there is one major thing missing: a fear factor.
"Lions squads who toured here in the past were overflowing with some of world rugby's biggest names. There were stars everywhere, and in both 1989 and 2001, five or six World XV-standard players. Guys like Mike Teague, Wade Dooley, Gavin Hastings, Rob Andrew in 1989, and then Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Robinson, Richard Hill, Brian O'Driscoll and Martin Johnson 12 years ago.
"In 2013 there would be two or three world XV players, at best. It is a very strong outfit but they don't have the calibre to have the Wallabies shaking in their boots."
Sir Clive Woodward, in the Daily Mail:
"The choice for Warren Gatland was ultimately a simple one. You pick the captain around whom you can build a winning Test team - and Sam Warburton is the right choice to lead the Lions this summer. The 24-year-old is a formidable player and an outstanding captain who has that rare ability to raise his performances when the pressure is at its greatest.
"He is modest and unassuming but still commands respect. When he stopped Manu Tuilagi scoring at Twickenham from three metres out in last year's Six Nations match against England, rather than accepting praise for a stupendous tackle he credited the size of his nose. That is the mark of the man - getting the job done with minimum fuss. He is not a leader known for grand, Churchillian speeches either, but when the pressure is on he will speak up and his team-mates listen."
Sir Ian McGeechan, writing in the Daily Telegraph:
"This is a squad to beat the Wallabies, of that I am sure. A third of it was in South Africa four years ago. They know what it is all about. It will have an edge to it. It has got physicality in it, but also intelligence.
"You need both to get the better of Australia. And I think the 2013 Lions will do just that."
ESPNscrum's Greg Growden:
"The British & Irish Lions squad is formidable, but it is well short of being absolutely fabulous. Let's just say the Wallabies aren't exactly quivering. As expected, Warren Gatland has gone for those he knows, leading to a rich Welsh tinge in the squad, and it is due to this that the Wallabies already hold a considerable psychological advantage.
"The core of the Lions squad are players accustomed to losing to Australia, with Wales winless against the Wallabies since November 2008 and defeated in their past eight Test encounters against the green and gold. So the Wallabies will stress that dominant factor when they eventually assemble for what will be a highly combative, keen and mean Test series."
Gavin Hastings, in The Scotsman:
"I won't be critical of Warren's selection because it's a tough job and he had a lot of quality to choose from, but I do wonder why he has gone for three full-backs and two stand-offs. I am delighted to see Stuart Hogg in there and he has earned his place, but I fear that he might not get much game-time to prove his worth if he is seen as the third full-back. His skills and hard work have impressed the coaches, and he is obviously seen as a player who can cover full-back, centre and stand-off, but in my opinion Greig Laidlaw would have been the viable option to cover stand-off and scrum-half.
"I was slightly surprised that Conor Murray was selected. I thought that Greig had showcased in the Six Nations that he was a better all-round player. I also feel Ryan Grant is very unlucky. Matt Stevens is in because of his versatility I guess, but I was aware that the Lions forwards coach Graham Rowntree was a fan of his and so he must have been very close. It would not surprise me to see him joining up with them if there is any injury to props."
Stuart Barnes on Sky Sports:
"Robshaw has had a wonderful season, but he has looked tired since the Wales game, he has looked tired, he has looked like a ghost of his former self. But I think he could do a job at seven, or he could do a job at six. But there has been a lot of negative media about him, people have never been certain about Chris Robshaw and I think he is paying the price for that.
"I personally think Tipuric is a little lucky to go. He is a headline number seven, he does some great things and in time he is going to be wonderful, but is he really that much better than Chris Robshaw over the ball? Does he have that experience? I think the answer is no on both of those counts and Robshaw is unlucky to miss out.
Andy Howell in the Western Mail:
"Not taking proven match-winner Jonny Wilkinson instead of Farrell as second outside-half behind Ireland's Jonny Sexton is astonishing. The ponderous Farrell lacks skills, pace and vision. He was hopeless when Wales crushed England last month at the Millennium Stadium by a record 30-3 to nick the Six Nations title and worse as Saracens bombed out of the Heineken Cup against an expertly Wilkinson-guided Toulon in the semi-finals at Twickenham two days ago.
"Dan Biggar and James Hook are among a number of Welsh No 10s all vastly superior to Farrell and an already revved-up Australia will be rubbing their hands with glee if Farrell ends up in the Lions Test XV.
"There have also been snubs from Gatland for Wales' Six Nations inspiration Ryan Jones and versatile prop Paul James. How former England international Matt Stevens, who got tuned for Saracens against Toulon, is going ahead of James or Andy Sheridan is unbelievable. And Ireland and Ulster ace Rory Best must wonder how England pair Tom Youngs and Dylan Hartley got in ahead of him at hooker."
The Irish Times' Gerry Thornley:
"This squad ticks plenty of boxes. It's a nice blend of experience and relative youth, with an emphasis on the latter given many of the first-time tourists in Lions' red are proven at Test level, and mostly in the red of a winning Wales. They are also more likely to withstand the heavy going of a ten-match, three-Test, six-week tour and double training sessions at the end of a long, hard, ten-month domestic season. It is very much a Warren Gatland selection.
"Above all, it's a squad designed to win a Test series in Australia, and it does appear to tick the relevant boxes. One possible shortcoming though is in the 10-12 area, where there are just two specialist outhalves and one specialist inside centre, even if Stuart Hogg will be the third outhalf and additional goal-kicking option while Jonathan Davies can play at 12."
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