British and Irish Lions 2013: Talking points... Five issues raised by Warren Gatland's squad selection
Wednesday 01 May 2013
1. Do only two 10s add up to enough?
Lions tours are tough; tours of attrition with high casualty rates. Warren Gatland has picked two No 10s, Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton, with Stuart Hogg in mind as back-up. Given Farrell's shaky showings in Cardiff and against Toulon last weekend he will be under pressure. Sexton is likely to start the first game against Barbarians and will have the shirt to lose, although the reason for picking only two 10s is to ensure both have enough game time come the Tests.
2. When the injuries come who is on the reserve list?
There isn't one. Gatland would be surprised if his first choice picks all even make the flight to Hong Kong on 27 May but has decided that there is no purpose in settling a back-up cast. With the home unions also touring he believes he will have plenty of options to call upon, and be able to tailor them exactly to what he requires without being tied to a pre-determined range of options. It makes for an interesting summer for Chris Robshaw, whom Stuart Lancaster wants to rest rather than take to Argentina with England. Does he keep training alone at home just in case?
3. Will the captain make the team?
The breakdown has been flagged as a pivotal area – which is why Robshaw failed to make the cut. The dynamic form of Justin Tipuric saw him preferred at No 7 by Wales by the end of the season. Tom Croft's lineout presence makes him a potential blindside starter, while Dan Lydiate also has a case to make. Warren Gatland said that if he picked the Test team now Sam Warburton would be in it, but admitted, as did Warburton, there are no guarantees he will be the chosen one come the first Test on 22 June.
4. What swung it for the two surprise call-ups, Maitland and Stevens?
It is Sean Maitland's Kiwi upbringing as much as his debut season for Scotland that has caught the eye of his fellow countryman. Gatland actually chose Maitland for Waikato during his early days in the game and has long been an admirer. His experiences of Super 15 rugby are a key factor in his selection. Matt Stevens has been closely watched by Graham Rowntree for some months and it is his "all-round package" that earned him the nod.
5. Why is there such a strong Welsh presence when they lost to Australia four times last year?
The core of the Welsh side that reached the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup will be together in Australia. They are a hugely experienced group, with the last two Six Nations titles in their lockers. They could, many say should, have won three of those – add the likes of Sexton, O'Driscoll and Cole and that should be enough to tilt the balance. Or so the plan goes.
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