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British & Irish Lions watch: Edition 8

10th April 2013 09:42

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British and Irish Lions watch

The last edition: Lions watch!

With the excitement building ahead of 2013's visit to Australia, we decided to pump up the volume by bringing you another British and Irish Lions watch!

Every three weeks or so Planet Rugby will update its leaderboard for who should pack their bags, who should keep the diary open and who should stock the fridge with a few beers, pizzas and ice creams for soaking up the tour on the couch, as the most coveted of selections fast approaches.

We must stress that long-term injuries have been taken into account for our calls. However, those nearing a return to action are accommodated.

Here we go - make sure to give your feedback.

FULL-BACKS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: We stick with Edition 7 as Leigh Halfpenny remains one of many's first names on the squad list. Meanwhile, Rob Kearney was in excellent form at Wasps in the Amlin Challenge Cup as he returned kicks with interest. Our final spot stays with Scotland's Stuart Hogg but Lee Byrne and Mathew Tait now join Alex Goode in a late run.

On standby: Alex Goode, Mike Brown, Lee Byrne, Mathew Tait

Best make other plans next June: Ben Foden, Felix Jones

WINGS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Much like a fellow Ireland veteran to be mentioned later, Tommy Bowe returned to Heineken Cup rugby with a performance that suggested he had never been away. He has ousted Craig Gilroy to a spot on the plane and joins George North and Alex Cuthbert in heading to Australia. The final position stays with Tim Visser to make it an even split of two left wings with two right. Chris Ashton may feel he could sneak in after his score against Ulster. Meanwhile, Ugo Monye and Christian Wade move up a level.

On standby: Chris Ashton, Sean Maitland, Simon Zebo, Ugo Monye, Christian Wade, Craig Gilroy

Best make other plans next June: Liam Williams, Luke Fitzgerald, David Strettle, Sean Lamont

CENTRES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: It is as you were in the centres as another Welsh pair, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, are all but certainties to travel. Brad Barritt did himself plenty of favours and can surely start some early packing, with his combative effort against Ulster. Meanwhile Brian O'Driscoll and Manu Tuilagi are the final two, despite the former not playing since the Six Nations due to injury and the latter struggling in Toulon. One man who jumps up a category is Munster's James Downey after his superb shift at Quins.

On standby: Scott Williams, Matt Scott, Billy Twelvetrees, James Downey

Best make other plans next June: Luke Marshall, Anthony Allen, Darren Cave, Gordon D'Arcy, Ashley Beck

FLY-HALVES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: And so we come to the burning question: do the Lions take Jonny Wilkinson as their third fly-half? We see more positives than negatives of getting him a seat on the plane and that is why he replaces Dan Biggar. Owen Farrell, who was superb against Ulster, remains one of the other two pivots with currently injured Jonathan Sexton.

On standby: Dan Biggar, Ian Madigan, Toby Flood

Best make other plans next June: Rhys Priestland, Ronan O'Gara, Paddy Jackson, Rhys Patchell, Charlie Hodgson, James Hook

SCRUM-HALVES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Two shoo-ins at nine are undoubtedly Mike Phillips and Ben Youngs, with the latter having impressed against Toulon. Danny Care's recent form remains a slight concern which further opens the door - not enough yet - to Conor Murray, who was good over the weekend. One player joining the 'on standby' list is Richard Wigglesworth after another no frills but highly efficient day for Sarries at Twickenham.

On standby: Greig Laidlaw, Conor Murray, Paul Marshall, Richard Wigglesworth

Best make other plans next June: Tavis Knoyle, Isaac Boss, Lloyd Williams, Lee Dickson

NUMBER EIGHTS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: It is as you were with Toby Faletau, Tom Wood and Jamie Heaslip not under enough pressure to lose their touring spots. Ben Morgan remains a dark horse because of his great early-Six Nations form but it remains to be seen whether boss Gatland was a fan. The respective calls from Montpellier and Wasps to bench Johnnie Beattie and Billy Vunipola over the European weekend doesn't help their bolter cause.

On standby: Ben Morgan, Thomas Waldrom, David Denton, Billy Vunipola, Johnnie Beattie

Best make other plans next June: James Coughlan, Jordan Crane, Nick Easter

FLANKERS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Contentious call I know but there is no avoiding that Chris Robshaw's form has taken a dip of late. In what's one of the hotly-contested positions on tour, the Lions will have plenty of options to choose from and at the moment we've decided that a quintet of Sean O'Brien, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton, Kelly Brown and Peter O'Mahony is the form five to tour. Tom Croft and Dan Lydiate are very much in the picture.

On standby: Ryan Jones, Iain Henderson, Dan Lydiate, Tom Croft, Steffon Armitage, Chris Robshaw

Best make other plans next June: Tom Johnson, Stephen Ferris, John Barclay, Alasdair Strokosch, Chris Henry, Ross Rennie, James Haskell, Will Fraser

SECOND-ROWS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: An outstanding performance. Paul O'Connell was one of the standout players over the Heineken Cup weekend - and with Gatland at the venue, we feel he's done more than enough to barge his way into the squad. Geoff Parling remains more or less a certain tourist while Alun-Wyn Jones and Joe Launchbury are our two remaining locks, with Nathan Hines and Richie Gray pushing them very close right now.

On standby: Nathan Hines, Donnacha Ryan, Ian Evans, Jim Hamilton, Courtney Lawes, Andrew Coombs, Richie Gray

Best make other plans next June: Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Al Kellock, Donncha O'Callaghan, Mike McCarthy

HOOKERS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: It is as you were in the hooking position as Richard Hibbard, Rory Best and Tom Youngs are a trio that offer differing strengths. Richardt Strauss may have something to say about that though as he continues his return from injury. Arguably this jersey is the most open spot of the XV for the June Test series.

On standby: Dylan Hartley, Sean Cronin, Richardt Strauss

Best make other plans next June: Ross Ford, Matthew Rees, Mike Sherry, Ken Owens

PROPS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: If the back-row is one the selection strongholds then prop is definitely another. Gatland is blessed with quality up front and a further plus is that none of the probables are anything close to being out of form. Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins stay as the two looseheads on the plane while Dan Cole and Adam Jones will battle for shirt number three. We stick with Mako Vunipola as his x-factor will be ideal to keep the players ahead of him on their toes. Mike Ross is likely to be at the front of the queue should there be an injury at tighthead but don't rule out Matt Stevens as he continues to put in 80-minute performances that are of a high standard. Paul James is also an option for his versatility.

On standby: Paul James, Ryan Grant, Mike Ross, Matt Stevens

Best make other plans next June: Alex Corbisiero, Euan Murray, Andrew Sheridan, Tom Court, Joe Marler, Dave Kilcoyne

By Adam Kyriacou
@PlanetRugbyAK