Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Alternative Lions Double XV (x2)

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With the Six Nations offering a good chance to view the current cream of Northern Hemisphere talent – at least those who are fit and in favour with their national coaches – we’ve come up with our own squad thing at a time when everyone and their nan is coming up with a Lions XV.

Even with a two in every slot cop-out like this, there were some that were tricky to leave out, like Heaslip who grew into the tournament, or Greig Laidlaw who had a good tournament but is unlikely to be the right fit for the sort of rugby that will need to be moulded to face New Zealand. Having said that Mike Blair was a perfect fit for Lions Rugby and it didn’t help him in the slightest.

Our selection also ignores the practicalities of utility backs and utility backrows and a fully rounded squad suitable to tour (there would probably be 3 hookers and 5 locks and more elsewhere), but takes into account recent tournament form and positions. For example I have no doubt that Dunbar and Bennett can be in the reckoning come 2017 (so no Billy Twelvetrees who just pipped Matt Scott as a call-up last time out) but having played a few games without massively impressing they have to be omitted here. Likewise Owen Farrell would probably travel as a 10 making a space for Robbie Henshaw, who impressed.

It’s also nice to put a few Scotland players in, with genuine hope that even Warren Gatland might select them…

Here’s my Official Cop Out Selection of Two in every Position Lions Squad™ of 30:

Stuart Hogg/Simon Zebo
Anthony Watson/Tommy Seymour
Duncan Taylor/Jonathan Joseph
Jamie Roberts/Robbie Henshaw
George North/Keith Earls
Dan Biggar/Jonny Sexton
Conor Murray/Ben Youngs
Jack McGrath/Al Dickinson
Dylan Hartley/Rory Best
WP Nel/Samson Lee
George Kruis/Jonny Gray
Alun Wyn Jones/Maro Itoje
CJ Stander/Chris Robshaw
John Hardie/Sam Warburton
Billy Vunipola/Toby Faletau

And just to show that these sorts of things are almost pointless this far out (even if they are fun), here’s another squad of players who played little or no part in this year’s Six Nations that have been recent Lions, or could be Lions contenders come 2017 – some admittedly more likely than others:

Leigh Halfpenny/Rob Kearney
Tommy Bowe/Craig Gilroy
Manu Tuilagi/Scott Williams
Matt Scott/Elliot Daly
Tom James/Christian Wade
Danny Cipriani/Finn Russell
Rhys Webb/Richard Wigglesworth
Cian Healy/Ryan Grant
Richard Hibbard/Jamie George
Petrus Du Plessis/Henry Thomas
Iain Henderson/Grant Gilchrist
Courtney Lawes/Joe Launchbury
Peter O’Mahony/Tom Wood
Sean O’Brien/Steffon Armitage
Nathan Hughes/David Denton

And let’s not forget Andy Goode…

Compiled with a lot of assistance from Gav Harper and the team!

8 Responses

  1. 3 per position for me, first two based on 6N form, third a wildcard based on potential or known ability. Amazing even with 45 players I’ve picked that only 13 of them are from Grand Slam winning England – I think they are better than the sum of their parts as a result of the quick, uncontested ball that Vunipola delivers – better ball than any other number 8 in the world.

    Still no space for Russell, Bennett or Laidlaw for me although the first two in particualr will be there or thereabouts if they have a good 12 months.

    Stuart Hogg/Mike Brown/Leigh Halfpenny
    Anthony Watson/Tommy Seymour/Alex Cuthbert
    Jonathan Joseph/Duncan Taylor/Manu Tuilagi
    Jamie Roberts/Robbie Henshaw/Alex Dunbar
    George North/Jack Nowell/Simon Zebo
    Dan Biggar/Jonny Sexton/Owen Farrell
    Conor Murray/Rhys Webb/Ben Youngs
    Jack McGrath/Al Dickinson/Cian Healy
    Dylan Hartley/Scott Baldwin/Jamie George
    WP Nel/Dan Cole/Samson Lee
    George Kruis/Jonny Gray/Iain Henderson
    Alun Wyn Jones/Maro Itoje/Richie Gray
    Peter O’Mahony/Dan Lydiate/CJ Stander
    John Hardie/Sam Warburton/Sean O’Brien
    Billy Vunipola/Toby Faletau/Jamie Heaslip

  2. Hogg / Halfpenny
    Watson / May
    Joseph / Tuilagi
    Roberts / Henshaw
    North / Bowe
    Farrell / Biggar
    Murray / Care
    Falateu / Vunipola
    Warburton / O’Brien
    Robshaw/ O’Mahony
    Itoje / J. Gray
    Wyn Jones / Kruis
    Nel / Cole
    Hartley / Best
    McGrath / Dickinson

    A squad of 38 would see a few other names that can cover multiple positions and also account for the fact that you need extra cover in the specialist positions, therefore you add the following 8:

    Owens, Healy, Lee, Henderson, Hardie, Webb, Sexton & Wade

    With Farrell covering second receiver, Henderson and Itoje covering Lock/Blindside, Robshaw and Warburton covering both flanker positions and Watson covering full-back. If you had another spot I’d go Taylor covering both centre positions

  3. 37 tourists went in 2013, so here’s my 37 man Lions 2017 squad based on a mixture of form/ reputation/ potential:

    Loosehead: McGrath, Dickinson, Vunipola
    Hooker: Hartley, Best, George
    Tighthead: Nel, Lee, Brookes

    Locks: AWJ, Itoje, J Gray, Henderson, Kruis

    Flanks: SOB, POM, Warburton, Hardie
    No. 8: Vunipola, Faletau

    Scrum-half: Murray, Webb, Davies
    FH: Biggar, Sexton, Farrell

    Centres: Slade, Tuilagi, Roberts, Joseph

    Wings: North, Seymour, Watson, Williams
    FB: Hogg, Brown, Halfpenny

    13 English, 11 Welsh, 7 Irish, 6 Scottish.

    Healy, Cole, Launchbury, Robshaw, Tipuric, CJ Stander, Laidlaw, Henshaw, Bennett/Dunbar/Taylor & Nowell will be there or thereabouts though!

  4. I’d hate to be the coach if everyone remains fit come next may. some really tight choices.
    Imho, there are a few that just have to go, if form, fitness and favour are kind. Elliot daly (as a bolter), think Russell is in with a chance of going(,..i’m no sticking my neck any further out than that) for being a tough little bugger, Hardie would be a good shout for playing against his mates :) , jonny gray for his engine,henry slade needs a big year and no injuries. I did have others but my mind has gone blank

  5. Maybe I’m being too cynical but I reckon that regardless of who is in the squad and who is in form Gatland will shoehorn as many Welsh into his first XV as is possible. In fact, I’m not being cynical, I’m going off past experience!

    1. we canna play gatland ball again, surely. ABs will be ready for that. Hard to say, its difficult seeing past what happened last time but there are candidates for each position..

      1. Here are four words I literally never thought I would say.

        In Warren Gatland’s defence…

        Rugby is the ultimate team game, where everyone needs to know what they’re doing and what everyone else is doing to be successful. So if you’re the Lions coach, do you choose the best players in each position (which in most positions are arguable anyway) and then try in a couple of weeks to build a team ethos and understanding? Or do you build off an existing team understanding, and only add players when they’re head and shoulders above anyone else.

        I, for example, am a full-time paid up member of the Jonny Gray fan club. I think he’s the best hod-carrying second row in the northern hemisphere, with a brilliant rugby brain and a freakish work ethic. But if you’re picking the Lions team, do you go for him when Itoje and Kris have been building a partnership every day of their careers at club and international level?

        My guess is that the England team will be the spine of the Lions in 2017, with the Irish or Welsh half-backs. Beyond that, where could you honestly argue that the Celtic alternatives are so far ahead of their English counterparts that you sacrifice team understanding to bring them in? Maybe a fit SOB and Warburton in the back row? Maybe North? Right now, maybe Hogg.

        Just to be clear, I’m not say that Nel isn’t better than Cole, or Roberts isn’t better than Tuilagi, or Taylor isn’t better that Joseph. I’m saying they’re not so totally, categorically better that they’ll pick up the team understanding and be an improvement in such a short time.

        You might think that the spirit of the Lions is in picking the very best available, and it’s the coach’s job to make them gel. I would totally respect that. But Gatland just wanted to win, and he did.

        Also, he’s a complete tool. (Okay, I feel better now.)

  6. Stuart Hogg has been named as Player of the Six Nations! Well deserved!

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion