A Lions team to trouble the All Blacks

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru

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    The British and Irish Lions should be as Irish as possible.

    I’d start with Jack McGrath, a loosehead who maintains the same body position throughout the match. It’s as if he never stands up straight; he is perpetually in bulldozer mode. The sledgehammer Cian Healy could get a look, too. Both have no lower gear: it’s smash and grab all game long.

    At hooker, I’d reward Ulsterman Rory Best for his high standard of play and his referee-management. But by all means, drag bad boy Dylan Hartley along for 25 minute menacing cameos in his homeland.

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    Tighthead is probably canny Dan Cole’s position, but youngish Tadhg Furlong isn’t many furlongs behind. I might even go with horses-for-courses between the two.

    In the second row, pesky Maro Itoje, the eloquent warrior Alyn Wyn Jones, the two flop-haired Gray brothers, brutal George Kruis, skilled Iain Henderson and the lanky Devin Toner have all staked a claim, along with workman Donnacha Ryan, but the ebony-and-ivory combo of Itoje and Jones with the bigger of the Grays on the bench might be the ticket.

    England's Maro Itoje mulling over thier series win

    In the back row, it is difficult to ignore CJ Stander (blindside) and Jamie Heaslip at No 8; the two of them were at the very core of Irish success in 2016. Openside is tougher to rank, but I suppose Justin Tipuric has done enough to shade Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, and Peter O’Mahony? Warburton or O’Brien on the bench.

    Conor Murray might be the best nine in any country right now, and Ben Youngs would be the understudy, I suppose.

    Flyhalf is tricky. Dan Biggar does his thing, Owen Farrell is not bad if we look past George Ford, Finn Russell has serious skills, but Jonathan Sexton seems to have the most of all the traits needed. Sharpshooter Farrell as reserve to make those 75th minute kicks to win.

    In the midfield, the Lions have a tough task against the home team. I would go for a tough inside centre: Robbie Henshaw, who should not have any fear of facing the All Blacks. Outside him, the fast feet of Jonathan Joseph. Elliot Daly could be the reserve midfielder.

    Warren Gatland will struggle to pick his wings. Jonny May has been in top form, Christian Wade and Keith Earls have their strengths, Anthony Watson, too. But assuming he can overcome the head knocks, George North is a good bet to face the Kiwis, and Simon Zebo for his ‘Dagg Lite’ football skills.

    At fullback, Rob Kearney will always give his all, as would Mike Brown and Liam Williams. But Stuart Hogg might just inject the question mark needed, with Williams as a BBBBB-type sub.

    So, here’s my team:

    Hogg, Zebo, Joseph, Henshaw, North, Sexton, Murray, McGrath, Best, Cole, Itoje, Jones, Stander, Tipuric, Heaslip. Hartley, Healy, Furlong, Gray, Warburton, Youngs, Farrell, Williams.

    They would start as underdogs, of course, but with a fine pack platform for set piece and general play, and finishers in the backline.

    What say you, Roarers?

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (126)

    • Columnist

      January 11th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Nicholas Bishop said | January 11th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Nice wrap Harry – but Tipuric has never been one of WG’s favourites with Wales and I suspect he’ll go with Warburton and Stander in the B/R with big Billy.

      On the rumour mill word has it that OF is being considered at 10, which could mean a fairly tight gameplan!

      • January 11th 2017 @ 1:59pm
        Jacko said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

        I think a tight game plan would be a mistake. The only team that beat NZ wasnt with a tight game plan. ABs seem to absorb, absorb, absorb then run a try in at the other end. Also not sure as to the effects of the new tackle rules but I think they will force sides to open the game up more.

      • Roar Guru

        January 12th 2017 @ 7:20am
        Harry Jones said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        Yes, I am sure Warburton has the inside track and will always give 100% to the cause and never lack for effort, but realistically, I see him as too limited a player to trouble Cane or Ardie and Coles most of the time.

        • Roar Guru

          January 13th 2017 @ 4:51am
          Carlos the Argie said | January 13th 2017 @ 4:51am | ! Report

          The issue of a very Irish team is that they don’t get the coach that drives them to excellence. They may be very good but they may not have the tactical acumen that their coach provides them. I don’t rate the “Welshman” as high as the “Irishman”.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Colin said | January 11th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      No mention of either vunipola brother is ridiculous.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 9:48am
        Kibuib said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Billy has a long term injury, he will probably be well out of shape come the tour. Mako should be in the squad though

      • January 11th 2017 @ 3:34pm
        What! said | January 11th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        Yes its ridiculous.

        My opinion without trying to be political.

        1 McGrath IRE
        2 Best IRE
        3 Nel SCO
        4 Itoje ENG
        5 Toner IRE
        6 Robshaw ENG or O’Mahony IRE
        7 Young (BOLTER!) WAL
        8 Vunipola ENG
        9 Youngs ENG
        10 Farrell ENG
        11 North WAL
        12 Henshaw IRE
        13 Bennett SCO
        14 Williams WAL
        15 Hogg SCO

        16 George ENG
        17 Vunipola ENG
        18 Cole ENG
        19 Lawes ENG
        20 Stander IRE
        21 Murray IRE
        22 Sexton IRE
        23 Zebo IRE

        Robshaw or O’Mahony on form.

      • Roar Guru

        January 12th 2017 @ 7:20am
        Harry Jones said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        Maybe, but I see them as being a big heavy at times for the type of game NZ will play.

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2017 @ 9:00am
      sheek said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      Irishman CJ Stander? Wow!

      It’s a funny old world we’re living in with all this global movement. Do we even need international rugby any more?

      The Wallabies might be renamed Pacific-Zimbabwe any time soon.

      Good article Harry, Thanks.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 12:07pm
        Munsterman said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

        In fairness he was told as a youngster that he was always going to be too small to ever play for the boks. The man is a beast! He’s come to Munster and immersed himself in the culture & now he’s getting to the same level for us as Paul o’Connell & rog were, a legend. They’re gonna change the residency rules and probably rightly so but we’ll take this lad

        • Roar Guru

          January 12th 2017 @ 7:21am
          Harry Jones said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

          Yes, CJ plays with a burning desire to prove Heyneke Meyer & Co wrong. Great player.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 9:09am
            RedandBlack said | January 12th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

            When Stander was first picked for Ireland I was incredulous – had Schmidt lost his mind. Oh he was full of bullocking runs but every time he touched a player he fell over. 1st 5’s were tackling him on a regular basis no trouble. Well they’ve sorted that out – got his balance right, hips under him but weight still forward and it is a brave inside back who looks at him head on nowadays. A good aggressive hard worker – my favorite sort of player. So in fairness to SA it wasn’t just size – he was lacking some basics too – but sometimes I guess you’ve got to pick on potential and heart and then work to make it work.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:31am
      Celtic334 said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      1 McGrath
      2 Best
      3 WP Nel
      4 Kuis
      5 J Gray
      6 Itoje (c)
      7 O’Brien
      8 Vunipola
      9 Murray
      10 Farrell
      11 L Williams
      12 Henshaw
      13 J Davies
      14 North
      15 Hogg

      16 M Vunipola
      17 Cronin
      18 Furlong
      19 Wynn Jones
      20 Stander
      21 Youngs
      22 Sexton
      23 Zebo

      • January 11th 2017 @ 2:00pm
        Perthstayer said | January 11th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

        Like Nel.

        Kruis instead of Gray, best to play partnerships wherever possible.

        Itoje won’t be 6 unless that’s his spot for full 6N. NZL is no place to test a new role.

        North no longer a shoe-in. He has lost form and there’s others ahead.

        Farrell has too little experience working with such dynamic centre pairing.

        BUT – How good is it for them to have such options. Underdogs, but with a strong bite

        • January 11th 2017 @ 2:24pm
          Celtic334 said | January 11th 2017 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

          Yeh i just thought Farrell is the choice for 10 as Sexton is too much of an injury liability, has superior kicking and Gatland prefers to play players that hit the line at 12 hence Henshaw.

          Overall was a very tricky team to pick soo many backrow and second row options its ridiculous. 13 and the wings are areas the kiwis will look to explore although North, Williams, Nowell, Zebo, Seymore etc are no mugs.

          Its great to see the strength of all Northern teams on show. Will be an amazing series.

      • Roar Guru

        January 12th 2017 @ 7:22am
        Harry Jones said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

        Nel could make it, but he is really not a good ball-carrier and is small in the tackle. Great at scrums.

      • January 25th 2017 @ 6:29pm
        Marlins Tragic said | January 25th 2017 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

        WP Nel is out for the season apparently

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:37am
      bert said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Peter O’Mahoney would be the fiirst name on my team sheet

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:35pm
        Daire Thornton said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

        Why? He isnt even a starter for Ireland. Stander is ahead of him now.

        • January 12th 2017 @ 2:55am
          What! said | January 12th 2017 @ 2:55am | ! Report

          I think O’Mahony had this thing called injury.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 3:18am
            Daire Thornton said | January 12th 2017 @ 3:18am | ! Report

            He wasn’t injured in November and yet was only a sub, back up to Stander and I’m pretty sure he wont be a starter in the six nations.

            I think O’Mahoney is this thing called a sub now.

            • January 12th 2017 @ 3:33pm
              What! said | January 12th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

              Yes, Stander started 3 tests and O’Mahony 1.

              This could be influenced by O’Mahony being out for over a year leading up to those tests.

              We will see how Gatland selects the team and how Schmidt selects the team for the 6 nats.

              Im not sure how you could be sure. It wouldnt be the first time a player has regained the starting jumper after a long injury lay off.

              But claim all you like. I will just wait to see if O’Mahony can again be Irelands first choice 6 after being one of the, if not the, best Irish player in the past.

              • January 12th 2017 @ 9:28pm
                Daire Thornton said | January 12th 2017 @ 9:28pm | ! Report

                O’Mahoney started against Canada like all the other bench options. O’Brien was also out for a while injured and came back in as a starter as did other players.

                Peter O’Mahoney is a good player but he will struggle to get in the starting team when Stander, Heaslip and O’Brien are fit. back row is an area of greatest strength for Ireland now and Ireland probably have the best back row squad in world rugby or at least one of them. Lots of players fighting out for the bench that have all been capped:

                Josh Van Der Flier
                Rhys Ruddock (has captained Ireland)
                Jordi Murphy (injured)
                Peter O’Mahoney (has captined Ireland)
                Dan Levy
                Jack O’Donoghue
                Tommy O’Donnell
                Jack Conan
                Robin Copeland
                Robbie Diack
                Chris Henry

              • January 13th 2017 @ 3:06am
                What! said | January 13th 2017 @ 3:06am | ! Report

                Ummm I doubt your opinion is gospel.

                O’Mahony has been picked over Stander before, maybe they didnt clear that with you first. Im not going to let you pretend you are the one who decides who plays and who doesnt when O’Mahony has been such a quality player in the past.
                Hes out for a year and his form is slowly returning to where it was. Schmidt will pick who he thinks is the best option which has been stander for 3 games and O’Mahony for a #$&! load more than 3.

                Pffft “like all other bench options”.

                Pull your head in.

              • January 14th 2017 @ 1:29am
                Daire Thornton said | January 14th 2017 @ 1:29am | ! Report

                @What O’Mahoney was picked before Stander before Stander became Irish qualified. Since then it has been pretty much all Stander.

                CJ Stander was just named the Writers choice player of the year (one of the top rugby awards in Ireland) and Munster player of the year for the 2nd year in a row. He also consistently picks up man of the match awards for Munster (30 MOTMs in 3 years for Munster) and Ireland.

                https://www.sportsjoe.ie/rugby/cj-stander-man-of-the-match/107523

                You really think Stander will be dropped for the six nations for Peter O’Mahoney? Not even Peter O’Mahoney thinks he will be starting in the six nations.

                Of course my opinion isnt gospel but it is based on what has happened over the last year or so.

                Odds are unless there are injuries Peter O’Mahoney will be on the bench.

      • Roar Guru

        January 12th 2017 @ 7:22am
        Harry Jones said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

        Controversial! Good on you.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:55am
      Kaz said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      “The British and Irish Lions should be as Irish as possible???..” you say Harry?
      I dont think so…sure the Irish beat the All Blacks in Chicago. But 2 weeks later…the same Irish team gone done on home soil. The ABs had worked them out…and the ABs, too, had an off day in Chicago.
      I say the Vunipola brothers, Faletau, Robshaw (although now in doubt with injury), Haskell all need to be in the mix with the names you have listed above Harry.

      • Roar Guru

        January 12th 2017 @ 7:24am
        Harry Jones said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

        So, I don’t think Faletau or Vunipola are as good as most do. I admit I am in the minority. But I think they are a big lazy at times.

        Robshaw is never lazy, but he is hurt badly.

        Haskell–he does have his moments. But Heaslip is so consistently good…

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