Jonathan Davies: Take Wilkinson along, but Jones should be the first choice at No 10 - Rugby Union - Rugby - The Independent

Jonathan Davies: Take Wilkinson along, but Jones should be the first choice at No 10

If naming Jonny Wilkinson in the Lions squad for the tour of New Zealand is a gamble, then it is a gamble worth taking. Sir Clive Woodward hasn't that many top-form outside-halves that he can afford to miss out on the man who played such a big part in England's World Cup triumph.

Not that I believe Wilkinson can work his way straight into the Test team. Stephen Jones of Wales is the stand-out player to occupy the Lions No 10 spot. There's no doubt in my mind that Jones is almost as certain of his place in the Test team as the top cert, Brian O'Driscoll. But we're talking about a demanding tour and if there's a good chance Wilkinson will be fully fit and eager by the time they embark on this thrilling adventure, Woodward must take him.

Woodward needs to pack the squad with experience, and this is why he will be tempted to pick players who won the World Cup the last time they went on a serious expedition Down Under. Charlie Hodgson hasn't played with confid-ence, and Ronan O'Gara has not had his best season. At least Woodward knows what he'd be getting from Wilkinson. If he takes Gavin Henson, he could be included among the stand-off contenders.

Apart from experience, the Lions could also be short of leadership. That's why I'm sure Lawrence Dallaglio will go. There's no way Woodward will pick Dallaglio over O'Driscoll as captain, but on a tour as hard as this you need as many natural leaders as you can get. That's why I'd take Matt Dawson and Neil Back as well. And there's a few other old hands who look to be winning their long battles against injury. Richard Hill, Julian White and Will Greenwood come into that category, as does Colin Charvis. There are enough valuable players rushing up from the casualty department to justify Woodward leaving some gaps for a week or two.

It's still very difficult to predict the First Test team because so much can happen between now and 25 June, and Woodward has given no clues about his tactical intentions. It would be no surprise if he chose one or two uncapped players, though: George Chuter, the Leicester hooker, has been showing good form and throws in well; and if needs big, ball-carrying centres, then Ayoola Erinle of Wasps could be very useful.

I've been loath to join in the team-picking predictions because of the difficulties mentioned above but, at the moment, this would be my team. My front row would be Gethin Jenkins, who had an excellent Six Nations; Robin McBryde, who is the best all-round hooker; and the powerhouse Julian White.

The second row is hard, but I would go for Ireland's Paul O'Connell and Danny Grewcock, who bring that vital bit of dog to the proceedings. Ben Kay and Brent Cockbain would run Grewcock close in that nuisance-value department.

The back row is another problem area, and will depend on whether the coach wants a ball-carrying unit or two flying flankers. My choice would be Dallaglio at six, Michael Owen at eight and Martyn Williams at seven, but I am aware of the challenge that Martin Corry, Colin Charvis and Back will mount.

The Welsh half-back partnership of Jones and Dwayne Peel has to offer the most serious claim for selection. I hear that Woodward is keen on the Scottish scrum-halves Mike Blair and Chris Cusiter. It's difficult to show your true worth playing in a weak side, but the coach might have seen flashes that fit into his ideas. Yet I don't think the Jones-Peel axis can be bettered on Six Nations form.

On the wings, I would give Jason Robinson a narrow vote over Shane Williams. Robinson hasn't played well at full-back because opponents have worked him out, but he has the edge in devastation potential. On the other wing I go for Gareth Thomas, because you need someone of stature to cope with Joe Rococoko.

Thomas would also have claims at inside-centre, and there are plenty of good candidates to play alongside O'Driscoll. But, while acknowledging the claims of Gordon D'Arcy, Henson and Mike Tindall, I'll pick Tom Shanklin.

At full-back I'd have Josh Lewsey. Geordan Murphy hasn't found any form recently, but Wales's Kevin Morgan has certainly put in a good shout. However, Lewsey is solid and hits good angles.

Davies' test team

15 Josh Lewsey (England)

14 Jason Robinson (England)

13 Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland, capt)

12 Tom Shanklin (Wales)

11 Gareth Thomas (Wales)

10 Stephen Jones (Wales)

9 Dwayne Peel (Wales)

1 Gethin Jenkins (Wales)

2 Robin McBryde (Wales)

3 Julian White (England)

4 Paul O'Connell (Ireland)

5 Danny Grewcock (England)

6 Lawrence Dallaglio (England)

7 Martyn Williams (Wales)

8 Michael Owen (Wales)

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week