Six Nations was Wallaby warm-up: Gatland

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    British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland viewed the intensity and physicality of Wales’ 30-3 victory over England in the Six Nations title decider as ideal preparation for the summer tour of Australia.

    After a bright start, the quality of rugby on show during the Six Nations disappointed Gatland – until the championship reached its sensational climax in Cardiff.

    Wales retained their Six Nations crown with a record victory over England in what was a perfect scenario for a Lions coach.

    Gatland said: “We felt there was a little bit of a fall-off in the quality of some of the games but not in terms of the character and guts that were shown.

    “And on the last weekend, we couldn’t have asked for any more for the finale with one team playing for the grand slam and the other team still in with a chance of winning the championship.

    “That set it up for us with a good level of intensity and physicality. There was some fantastic rugby played over the first weekend.”

    But the Six Nations is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to selection.

    Gatland and the Lions coaches held another meeting this week and experienced players like Paul O’Connell, Dan Lydiate and Tommy Bowe, who all missed the championship through injury, remain in contention.

    Lydiate will make his return from a broken ankle tomorrow night, when he plays for the Newport Gwent Dragons, while O’Connell will also make a timely return for Munster this weekend.

    England loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero is also still in contention, joining a group who, it appears, will only have to prove their fitness rather than their form to get on the plane.

    For others, the European semi-finals weekend will be the final opportunity to nail down a place on the tour. Four years ago, one player was selected just an hour before the squad was announced.

    The Lions management expect to still be having final discussions on the night before the April 30 announcement, when they will no doubt be dissecting performances from the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals.

    Gatland had been asked to name his touring squad a week earlier but put his foot down because of the important lessons he can learn from watching players perform with a final place at stake.

    Meanwhile, Sir Clive Woodward believes Sam Warburton is the leading contender to captain the Lions in Australia.

    “He would be favourite for me,” Woodward said.

    “The Lions captain has to be an automatic choice – you can’t have a captain who any players question should be in the team. I think Warburton is back to his best.”

    As for the squad itself, the man who led England to World Cup success in 2003 added on Sky Sports News: “I think it’s about picking players who are playing well at the moment. It’s a difficult job and I think he (Gatland) is in a great position. We all wish him well.

    “I think the Lions have a great chance. I think Warren has the players and will be very confident after Saturday’s round of games. But it will be a hugely challenging tour, with the fast pitches and bad weather.”

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 1:37am
      Ben.S said | March 23rd 2013 @ 1:37am | ! Report

      Honestly, this is absolute nonsense from Gatland. The tour is months away.

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2013 @ 3:32pm
        Jiggles said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

        It may be nonsense but at least you can understand your silly New Zealand coach. Our silly New Zealand coach mutters something about ‘preferential tournament preparation enabling optimal playing zone periods,” while we scratch our heads. 😉

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 6:58pm
          Stanley grella said | March 23rd 2013 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

          If you can understand him or not, shame for the lions that wales, a team thataustralia has the wood on won the six nations and that gatland, perhaps the only coach in international rugby deans has consistently outsmarted in recent years areleadingthis tour.

          • March 23rd 2013 @ 11:32pm
            Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

            If only that were true Stanley and not a complete fabrication.
            For 1, Gatland was not coach of Wales in Australias last 4 victories over them.
            And for 2, the Wallabies under Deans…
            Eng 2 Aust 4
            SA 5 Aust 9
            Ital 0 Aust 6
            Fra 1 Aust 5
            Arg 0 Aust 2

            However lets pretend Australia has lost heaps under Deans and not been a top 3 side. Its fun to pretend.
            Big ol nasty Deans.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 1:51am
      Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 1:51am | ! Report

      See the problem with Warburton is that hes played 2 good games in the last 10 hes played. For me that doesnt say “automatic selection” let alone captain when the only 2 games hes played well in were the ones he wasnt captain for Wales.
      Robshaw has played extremely well for his last 12 games and is always there or there abouts. He is the certain starter and workhorse. Robshaw is my captain.

      Looseheads: Sheridan ENG, Healy IRE, Jenkins WAL.

      Tightheads: Cole ENG, Murray SCO, Jones WAL.

      Hookers: Best IRE, Hibbard WAL, Hartley ENG.

      Locks: Ryan IRE, Evans WAL, Gray SCO, Wyn Jones WAL, Parling ENG.

      Backrow: Wood ENG, O’Brien IRE, Robshaw ENG, Armitage ENG, Warburton WAL, Morgan ENG, Felatau WAL.

      Halfback: Youngs ENG, Phillips WAL, Laidlaw SCO.

      Flyhalf: Farrell ENG, Sexton IRE, Wilkinson ENG.

      Centres: Tuilagi ENG, Roberts WAL, BOD IRE, Davies WAL.

      Back 3: North WAL, Brown ENG, Cuthbert WAL, Hogg SCO, Kearney IRE, Halfpenny WAL, Zebo IRE.

      MID WEEK 23.
      1) Jenkins
      2) Hartley
      3) Murray
      4) Ryan
      5) Parling
      6) Wood
      7) Warburton
      8) Morgan
      9) Laidlaw
      10) Wilkinson
      11) Zebo
      12) BOD (capt)
      13) Davies
      14) Cuthbert
      15) Kearney
      16) Best
      17) Healy
      18) Cole
      19) Wyn Jones
      20) O’Brien
      21) Youngs
      22) Sexton
      23) Hogg

      TEST 23.
      1) Sheridan
      2) Hibbard
      3) Jones
      4) Gray
      5) Evans
      6) Robshaw (capt)
      7) Armitage
      8) Felatau
      9) Phillips
      10) Farrell
      11) Brown
      12) Roberts
      13) Tuilagi
      14) North
      15) Halfpenny
      16) Best
      17) Healy
      18) Cole
      19) Wyn Jones
      20) O’Brien
      21) Youngs
      22) Sexton
      23) Hogg

      Unlucky: K.Brown SCO, Grant SCO, Launchbury ENG, Tipuric WAL, Bowe IRE, Corbisiero ENG, Biggar WAL.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 3:48pm
        nickoldschool said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

        Gatland should take 35 to 37 players.

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 5:39pm
          Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

          38 I reckon but he has said 33 before I think.

        • March 24th 2013 @ 5:15am
          Ra said | March 24th 2013 @ 5:15am | ! Report

          Funny that – these professionals play less games on tour than their amateur predecessors, but carry more players on their roster, and five times more in their management/support staff – gotta wonder

          • March 24th 2013 @ 6:52pm
            Hightackle said | March 24th 2013 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

            Thats becuz they understand a lot more about how to get the best performance out of players.
            Just becuz they used to do it doesnt mean it was right.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 3:54am
      bluerose said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:54am | ! Report

      it will be a massive 3tests for the Wallabies.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 8:02am
      Red Block said | March 23rd 2013 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      so the Lions will be made up of a majority of players coming from Wales. Isn’t this the same Wales that came out here last year and were beaten 3-0 without firing a shot? they were beaten by an Aussie team playing ordinary rugby and looked a bit like a B team. one wonders what mental scars they will carry into country with them.

      We are not shaking in boots despite the best efforts of the ARU publicity machine.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 8:21am
        Ben.S said | March 23rd 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        I have no affinity with the Welsh, but that’s clearly a ridiculous level of revisionism.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 2:24pm
        Wales15 said | March 23rd 2013 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

        Red Block: Do you have a clue about rugby? If you did, you would have realised Wales were pipped in every single game against Australia, not outplayed, just pipped as a consequence of stupid decisions made by players like Priestland, who fortunately won’t be anywhere near the Lions. I hope that if that is the mentality of Australia, that it will be easy against Welsh players, they will fall into a false sense of security and get hammered.

        Mental scars would have occured if they were hammered by 50 points. They wouldn’t have obtained any through 1 point defeats at the last minute.

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 5:18pm
          Red Block said | March 23rd 2013 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

          Thank you for agreeing with me. The Welsh made stupid decisions against a team with no game plan and who kicked the ball away.So why did they not win.
          It’s a mental thing they have against the Wallabies!

          • March 23rd 2013 @ 5:44pm
            Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

            The Lions are not the Welsh.
            They are the best from Ire, Eng, Sco and Wal.
            The Welsh team are to the Lions as the Crusaders are to the ABs.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 3:02pm
        Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

        3-0 Lions.

        The Lions scrum, line out, tactical kicking, place kicking, physicality and depth will be stronger than Australias.

        Australia will need a miracle to win the series. Mind you winning as much as they did in 2012 was a miracle so stranger things have happened.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 9:01pm
      Dean Vincent said | March 23rd 2013 @ 9:01pm | ! Report

      I’m intrigued as to who will lead the Lions. I think there are question marks over all the leading candidates.

      For me, Robshaw is not guaranteed a place in the test XV. He’s a good player, has led England very well but in my opinion both Warburton and Tipuric offer far more at 7 against the likes of Hooper and Gill

      Warburton has come back with a real bang but seems to be playing better without the responsibility of captaincy.

      I don’t think the captains of Scotland and Ireland have a chance. Brown may not even be in the touring party and Heaslip again is not guaranteed a test start and has also presided over an Irish campiagn that started with a bang and got progressively worse.

      The only other two candidates who spring to mind in my eyes are O’Driscoll and Alun-Wyn Jones. The former is a veteran of 3 Lions tours. His form has varied through the 6N but on his day he is still a class act and his partnership with Roberts in 09 was superb.

      Alun-Wyn Jones has always been talked about as having great leadership potential but whilst he has captained Wales in the past, other players have been generally favoured before him. I think he is likely to be a test starter. The likes of Gray, O’Connell are recovering from injury whilst the two English locks strike me as being somewhat lightweight although both players have been very impressive at times. Jones also has experience of Lions tests.

      In short, I think one of these two will be captain with O’Driscoll the leading contender.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 11:44pm
        Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

        Are Wyn Jones or BOD any more likely to start than Robshaw?
        I would think if Gray is fit (and he should be) he is the best option at 4 and Tuilagi is prolly fav to be 13.

        • March 24th 2013 @ 11:33am
          Dean Vincent said | March 24th 2013 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          I would say both Jones and O’Driscoll are likely to start for the reasons outlined above.

          Why are Gray and Tuilagi favourites?

          I like Gray as a player but he had a distinctly underwhelming tournament before his injury. He should be fit for the Lions as you say but don’t think you can pencil him as a starter until he starts showing some of the form he displayed last year.

          The only time the English backline looked threatening in the 6N was when Twelvetrees played against Scotland in Tuilagi’s absence. Tuilagi is a talented player no doubt but every time I’ve seen him play in a crunch game he’s been one-dimensional. At times against Wales he was like a deer in the headlights, dropping the ball and taking the wrong options.

          • March 24th 2013 @ 6:55pm
            Hightackle said | March 24th 2013 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

            They are in most peoples teams and BOD is prolly 3rd fav now behind Davies.
            Gray is in most peoples teams too and I dont mean just fans, I mean past players and coaches.

            • March 25th 2013 @ 6:14am
              Dean Vincent said | March 25th 2013 @ 6:14am | ! Report

              Are you always so condescending and patronising in you replies? I watched every game thank you. Not everyone has the same opinion as you mate.

              Who exactly are most people? I haven’t seen Gray in any of the teams and O’Driscoll was in virtually all of them.

              The Daily Telegraph XV had O’Driscoll in with 48% of the vote so don’t know how you say he’s 3rd favourite.

              Brian Moore and David Flatman in Telegraph and Independent both had O’Driscoll.

              Eddie Butler in the Observer had Gray taking the final spot in the squad not in the test team.

              In the Southern Hemisphere, Paul Cully again didn’t have Gray in there. He did have Tuilagi playing with….O’Driscoll.

              So I don’t know what writers you’ve been reading but there’s a fair few in the British press who are of the same opinion as me.

              I’ve acknowledged the fact that Tuilagi is a talented player but against Wales he was non-existent. He had a great chance early doors but dropped the ball. II didn’t imagine anything…..go and watch the game again.

            • March 25th 2013 @ 5:17pm
              Dean Vincent said | March 25th 2013 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

              Having now had a good chance to go through as many Lions XV picked by pundits online, I have found only 1 which picks both Gray and Tuilagi without picking Jones and O’Driscoll in the same team. Alasdair Reid in the Telegraph is the only 1 I can find.

              There is a collated team from on a large number of pundits on MSN.com and O’Driscoll and Jones are both there.

              So your contention above is spurious to say the least. Whilst there may be some pundits who agree with your assertions I can’t find any online (sorry make that 1) but there are plenty picking Jones and O’Driscoll.
              Gray and Tuilagi are in some other teams but their partners in every case I’ve found are Jones and O’Driscoll.

              Hardly a ringing endorsement.

          • March 24th 2013 @ 6:59pm
            Hightackle said | March 24th 2013 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

            As far as Tuilagi is concerned.
            The reason he was put back in the team is becuz he was outstanding at times off the bench.
            Im sorry but I dont think you watched every game.
            Tuilagi has been outstanding in a lot of “big” games including against NZ.
            Against Wales he had very few opportunities and was not like a deer caught in headlights like you imagined.

    • March 25th 2013 @ 4:50pm
      Dean Vincent said | March 25th 2013 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

      Interestingly, Austin Healey who’s as pro-English as they come had this to say in the Daily Telegraph today.

      ” If your key player, who in my eyes is Manu Tuilagi, plays as poorly as he did, it can spread throughout the side. And it did. From the moment he butchered that early opportunity, by dropping a straightforward pass, he was never in the game as an attacking force.

      Moments like that can change games. Poor execution and in terms of the game, a very costly error. Then, later on, he summed up a disappointing afternoon by wasting a three-on-one scoring opportunity. Tuilagi does have a tendency to do things like that, but ordinarily he has the ability to rescue the situation and make something of it. Not this time.”

      He also said, “Against New Zealand, there was nothing to lose. Last Saturday, England had everything to lose and with the exception of one or two, most notably Geoff Parling, they buckled.”

      This sums it up very well for me, when there has been a crunch game, Tuilagi has been found wanting. This isn’t to say he’s not a very good player but in a Lions series, I would rather have a veteran of 3 Lions series, who has been there and done it and is still on top of his game.

      Michael Aylwin in the Guardain had this to say on his performance, “For once, there was no change to be had from the crash-bang policy. One mini-break promised something, but by the end he looked lost.”

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