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British & Irish Lions watch: Edition 1

17th October 2012 15:19

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Lions Watch

2013: Who will make the plane?

With the excitement building ahead of 2013's visit to Australia, we decided to pump up the volume by introducing a regular British & 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: Mike Brown has been the form full-back during the early-season, with his ability to offer a threat in the first line of attack as well as at the back priceless. Meanwhile Leigh Halfpenny's goal-kicking makes him a certainty for boarding the plane.

On standby: Rob Kearney, Alex Goode, Lee Byrne

Best make other plans next June: Ben Foden, Stuart Hogg, Rob Miller, Delon Armitage

WINGS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Alex Cuthbert and Tommy Bowe have been in amongst the tries so far this season while Chris Ashton and Tim Visser provide power and speed for Saracens and Edinburgh respectively. George North also makes the cut right now but will need a solid November Test series and Six Nations to hold off those players on standby.

On standby: Sean Lamont, Andrew Trimble, Simon Zebo

Best make other plans next June: Ugo Monye, Keith Earls, Charlie Sharples, James Simpson-Daniel, David Strettle

CENTRES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: These six pretty much wrote themselves into this squad as Jamie Roberts, Brian O'Driscoll, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt and Jonathan Davies have been consistently top quality. Owen Farrell may be included as a 10/12/13 so he sneaks in.

On standby: James Hook, Anthony Allen, Ashley Beck, Darren Cave, Scott Williams, Dom Waldouck

Best make other plans next June: James Downey, Paddy Wallace, Gordon D'Arcy, Jordan Turner-Hall, Fergus McFadden

FLY-HALVES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Let the comments commence. Jonathan Sexton is widely rated as the favourite to start but after Gatland's mention of Jonny Wilkinson - to go with his pain of 2001 - we bring in Toulon's form 10. Dan Biggar has overtaken Rhys Priestland.

On standby: Toby Flood, Rhys Priestland

Best make other plans next June: Ruaridh Jackson, Ronan O'Gara, Danny Cipriani, Charlie Hodgson

SCRUM-HALVES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: 2009 saw four nines make the trip so on form we have Danny Care and Greig Laidlaw. If Mike Phillips can keep his head down in Bayonne then both he and Ben Youngs should hold off Lee Dickson and possible bolter Paul Marshall.

On standby: Lloyd Williams, Lee Dickson, Paul Marshall

Best make other plans next June: Conor Murray, Richard Wigglesworth

NUMBER EIGHTS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: A tough one here as Jamie Heaslip played his first match of the season last week but should get back to form in a few rounds. Nick Easter seems to have Conor O'Shea and also most of the English press banging his drum so these two pip David Denton, Thomas Waldrom and Ben Morgan. It will be very interesting to see who Wales go for in November as Toby Faletau has fallen down the pecking order while it was interesting to see Ulster originally name Stephen Ferris at number eight for their game with Castres. We like a possible 6 Dan Lydiate/Sean O'Brien, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Ferris axis.

On standby: Thomas Waldrom, David Denton, Ben Morgan

Best make other plans next June: Peter O'Mahony, Jordan Crane, Toby Faletau, Andy Powell, Richard Baxter

FLANKERS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Depth aplenty here for Gatland as England captain Chris Robshaw, Wales skipper Warburton, Irish powerhouse O'Brien and the aforementioned Ferris seem to just about have the edge over Ross Rennie, Justin Tipuric and Tom Croft (who ruled out playing in the November Tests recently but should soon be back firing in club colours). Tom Wood has already made his rugby return and could make a surge this year.

On standby: Justin Tipuric, Ross Rennie, Tom Croft, Dan Lydiate

Best make other plans next June: Phil Dowson, John Barclay, Alasdair Strokosch, Andy Saull, Rob McCusker, Tom Wood

SECOND-ROWS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Two guys who made it to South Africa and two newbies make our cut for lock. Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones are likely to muscle their way in while Courtney Lawes' performance was dynamic over the weekend against Glasgow. Leicester's Geoff Parling is a real workhorse who impressed a great deal during the tail end of the Six Nations and in June. Donnacha Ryan has that lock/back-row string to his bow.

On standby: Donnacha Ryan, Richie Gray, Nathan Hines, Mouritz Botha, Ryan Jones

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

HOOKERS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: It doesn't look as though any rivals will budge this trio of Dylan Hartley, Rory Best and Ross Ford out of their international starting spots before Gatland sits down with his pen and paper. Tom Youngs is the possible bolter here.

On standby: Matthew Rees, Richard Hibbard, Richardt Strauss

Best make other plans next June: Sean Cronin, Tom Youngs

PROPS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Good strength for the B&I Lions up front and that will be vital against a Wallabies line-up that has long been associated with weak scrummaging. There's no doubt Australia has improved in that department of late but with Dan Cole, Adam Jones, Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins and possibly even a return for Toulon starter Andrew Sheridan, this is one area Gatland and his coaching staff will be targeting for points.

On standby: Tom Court, Andrew Sheridan, Alex Corbisiero, Mike Ross

Best make other plans next June: Euan Murray, Mako Vunipola, Allan Jacobsen

By Adam Kyriacou
@PlanetRugbyAK