Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions

Advertisement

British & Irish Lions watch: Edition 5

23rd January 2013 12:29

Share:

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 bringing you our fifth 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: Wales and Cardiff Blues full-back Leigh Halfpenny remains the front-runner for the position, having continued to perform for his region. Halfpenny receives plenty of attention for his excellent goal-kicking but he is also a threat with ball in hand and strong under the high ball, making him the perfect candidate. Rob Kearney's return from injury is a positive sign for all Lions fans and if he stays fit will absolutely travel. Harlequins' Mike Brown is not far behind the leading duo and could travel as a full-back/winger option.

On standby: Mike Brown, Lee Byrne, Alex Goode

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

WINGS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Tommy Bowe's injury sees him drop down the pecking order, with Heineken Cup showman Simon Zebo rocketing up our squad ranks. Chris Ashton is another who comes back into the fold after some strong performances for Saracens, whilst Craig Gilroy keeps his spot ahead of what could be a breakthrough Six Nations for the Ulster winger. Finally, a shootout between two Welsh giants sees Alex Cuthbert edge out George North to take the final spot. Two standby contenders include the returning Luke Fitzgerald, who has shone in his two matches back, and Osprey Eli Walker.

On standby: George North, Eli Walker, Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Tim Visser

Best make other plans next June: Liam Williams, Ugo Monye, Christian Wade, David Strettle, Sean Lamont

CENTRES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: England powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi remains near the top of the list after his heroics against New Zealand. Jamie Roberts has shown enough in recent weeks to suggest he is nearing a burst of form ahead of the Six Nations and could form a strong partnership with Tuilagi in midfield. Brian O'Driscoll is easing back into playing following injury and with the Ireland captaincy no longer his, expect a burden-free O'Driscoll to shine over the next two months. That leaves Brad Barritt as a defensive lynchpin and Welsh centre Jonathan Davies to fill the other seats travelling to Australia.

On standby: Scott Williams, Jonathan Joseph, Keith Earls

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

FLY-HALVES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: The competition is as fierce as ever between Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell, with both players showcasing their skill sets during the Heineken Cup. Sexton is the front-runner and will not let being courted by Racing Métro distract him during the Six Nations, whilst Farrell produced a remarkable kicking performance against Racing to stake his claim. Behind them a third candidate is unclear, with Jonny Wilkinson struggling against Montpellier, Rhys Priestland ruled out for some time and Toby Flood's form being scratchy at best. In a battle between Freddie Burns (knee scan dependent), Dan Biggar and Flood, we'll take Biggar. Rhys Patchell and Charlie Hodgson are on the radar.

On standby: Jonny Wilkinson, Freddie Burns, Toby Flood, James Hook

Best make other plans next June: Rhys Priestland, Ruaridh Jackson, Ronan O'Gara, Rhys Patchell, Charlie Hodgson, Greig Laidlaw, Paddy Jackson

SCRUM-HALVES

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Danny Care and Ben Youngs are both strong candidates to start after illustrating their individual qualities recently. Care remains as sniping and tricky to defend as ever, whilst in the blizzard against Toulouse the busy Youngs' tactical kicking was outstanding. Behind the pair of them, Mike Phillips leads a strong Irish trio of Eoin Reddan, Conor Murray and Paul Marshall, with Scottish nine Henry Prygos an outside bet.

On standby: Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Paul Marshall

Best make other plans next June: Tavis Knoyle, Issac Boss, Richard Wigglesworth, Lloyd Williams, Lee Dickson, Henry Prygos

NUMBER EIGHTS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Jamie Heaslip is most definitely the number one number eight playing in Britain and Ireland right now. His performances for Leinster this past month have been superb and he increases his positional lead over his tour rivals because of that. Nick Easter continues to play well for Quins but is unlikely to go so our two other eights this time around are Toby Faletau and Kelly Brown, who would make a great midweek skipper.

On standby: James Coughlan, Thomas Waldrom, David Denton, Ben Morgan

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

FLANKERS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: And so we arrive to the Lions strongest position. Take your pick really as decisions may be made for us during the Six Nations. While Sam Warburton is Wales captain, the form of Justin Tipuric this past month has been outstanding and it will be interesting to see whether the Osprey gets game time in red. Chris Robshaw seems to be assured a place on the plane (we feel maybe not as a starter) so the other spots are heading toward Stephen Ferris (almost back) and Sean O'Brien. Tom Wood and Peter O'Mahony will be pushing hard along with Tom Croft and Dan Lydiate later on. The wildcard is, of course, 2013's non-international player and Toulon star openside Steffon Armitage.

On standby: Ross Rennie, Dan Lydiate, Tom Wood, Peter O'Mahony, Tom Croft, Steffon Armitage

Best make other plans next June: Tom Johnson, John Barclay, Alasdair Strokosch, Chris Henry, Ryan Jones, Iain Henderson

SECOND-ROWS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Just the one change here after another solid month of Heineken Cup rugby from Geoff Parling, Nathan Hines and Donnacha Ryan. That trio has a good balance of workrate, skills and grunt that will be needed against James Horwill and Sitaleki Timani. Our final lock spot is going to Richie Gray, who gets in ahead of Joe Launchbury, with both hoping for a strong Six Nations to boost their hopes of travelling.

On standby: Paul O'Connell, Joe Launchbury, Alun-Wyn Jones, Jim Hamilton, Courtney Lawes

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

HOOKERS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: Richardt Strauss is out of the Lions mix this time around due to an ankle injury, which sidelines him for the Six Nations. That injury follows a knee problem so his fate may be decided for him should his run of bad luck continue. Rory Best remains the front-runner while Dylan Hartley is set to make the plane. The final spot is between either Richard Hibbard and Tom Youngs...we opt for the dynamic youngster.

On standby: Richard Hibbard, Sean Cronin, Matthew Rees, Richardt Strauss

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

PROPS

Kiss the wife and kids goodbye: After yet another punishing display for Leinster over the weekend in the Heineken Cup, Cian Healy has to be the first front-rower on the plane. Dan Cole isn't far behind after dismantling many a scrum, and keeping Martin Castrogiovanni warming pine for Leicester. Gethin Jenkins has been on and off for Toulon, but should feature more often than not for Wales come the Six Nations which makes it tough to leave him at home. The same goes for Adam Jones, whilst Mike Ross also keeps his place.

On standby: Ryan Grant, Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola

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