British & Irish Lions
Greenwood tips Lions for glory
Tom Hamilton
May 31, 2013
Will Greenwood of the Lions pictured during the match between Auckland and the British and irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand  on July 5, 2005.
Will Greenwood calls the shots during the Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005 © Getty Images

Former England and British & Irish Lions centre Will Greenwood has tipped the tourists to win their Test series against the Wallabies but has played down the dream scenario of Jonny Wilkinson arriving later in the tour and guiding the Lions to victory.

The tourists flew out to Hong Kong on Monday and Greenwood is no stranger to the whole Lions experience having been called up for the 1997, 2001 and 2005 series. With two Test caps to his name and also the unwanted experience of having his 1997 and 2001 tours cut short by injury, Greenwood knows better than most what it takes to be a Lions tourist and play at the highest level.

And he is hugely excited by the squad Warren Gatland has picked and sees class all over the field. "One of the fascinating things is, they are a great scrummaging outfit," Greenwood told ESPN. "If you go with Adam Jones or Dan Cole then you have solid tight-head options there - hooker is also great. In the second-row, Paul O'Connell has played the last six Tests and further back, I love Toby Faletau as a player. Sam Warburton will be an outstanding captain and then you either throw in Tom Croft or a couple of others.

"In the backs, Jonathan Sexton, I love the way he plays and the midfield looks cracking. You wouldn't want to pick up too many injuries, but that first-choice side with the lads who are touring alongside them looks like one that can go for Australia. And I genuinely believe we can win this series."

With 55 appearances in the England midfield and a World Cup medal to his name, Greenwood is fully qualified to give his views on the options available to Gatland at centre and he thinks the Lions have the perfect balance at their disposal. In Greenwood's mind, Jonathan Davies was "the best centre in the northern hemisphere" in 2012 but if the Lions were to play Australia tomorrow, then he would opt for Davies' team-mate Jamie Roberts as the only definite starter in the midfield.

"I've changed my mind over the course of the last 18 months - originally I would have had Tuilagi and Jonathan Davies. After the New Zealand game, I'd have pushed Roberts to 12 and Tuilagi to 13. Then Brian O'Driscoll comes back and Davies comes back into form - it's a very strong area of the field. I'd have no problems if two of them got injured and the other two started. If I had to pick a team for tomorrow, I'd have to go Roberts and you know what, I wouldn't mind out of the other three."

"I think everyone is writing that in the dream scenario Jonny arrives and rescues the tour"

And Greenwood has tipped Roberts and Davies' Wales team-mate Richard Hibbard to put down a marker on the forthcoming tour. Greenwood added: "Richie Hibbard could be an interesting character on the Lions tour and the hard grounds.

"Faletau could be man of the series and there's a chance, with injuries and a different routine, then Halfpenny could be started on the wing with Stuart Hogg coming out of nowhere and starring in the fullback spot."

One of the big-name omissions from the 37-man squad when it was announced was Greenwood's World Cup-winning team-mate Jonny Wilkinson. Many believe Wilkinson will eventually journey out and link-up with the Lions once his club duties with Toulon have come to an end this season, but Greenwood is reluctant to predict the fly-half linking up with the Lions once again.

"It's all about injuries," Greenwood added. "Farrell doesn't get injured and it all depends on Sexton's hamstring. They will give Sexton every opportunity to stay fit and to stay on the tour. I think everyone is writing that in the dream scenario Jonny arrives and rescues the tour.

"Injuries happen on Lions tour and I would not want to talk about that as I have had that happen to me on two Lions tours and it is a horrible thing to happen to you. Personally, I hope they are all stay fit. You wouldn't wish injury on anyone just to get a player you want out there."

Will Greenwood is an ambassador for Microsoft's Teamwork & Technology programme, a free series of resources for teachers:

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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