David Flatman: Stuart Hogg is my surprise Lions pick – oops, a surprise no longer

From the Front Row

I remember, a few years ago now, waking up and finding an envelope on my doormat with the British & Irish Lions emblem on it. I nearly fainted. It said I was being considered for the squad. I didn't panic; I just prepared my usual breakfast and did my best to stop my heart coming out of my chest.

When I reached the training ground I didn't mention it to a soul. I knew I would have to call mum and dad to tell them how close I was to the pinnacle of any player's dreams.

Then Julian White walked in and asked: "You get that Lions thing too?" I was ecstatic; not only was I in with a shout, but my best mate was too. Life could not get any better. Then he said: "Yeah, everyone's got it mate, about 200 of us." My knotted stomach relaxed and promptly hit the changing- room floor. This letter had been sent to every player in every home nations extended squad.

I revealed what I thought the letter had meant. This led to White laughing so hard that he literally took a knee, as standing became impossible.

I have again been checking the post religiously, hoping against hope that Mr Gatland will beg me to leave retirement behind. I have recently moved house, so the Royal Mail could be to blame for my non-selection. And I have a new mobile phone, so he won't have my number either. Sometimes I wonder if fate is against me.

With the Six Nations fresh in our minds, it's time to take a punt and put a British & Irish Lions team together. Every player will claim that his mind is focused solely on the job in hand, that getting that right is what will see them on the plane to Australia. But they are all thinking about it. It's a tough time, actually, for these chaps, as they will soon be told in no uncertain terms whether or not their lives are about to change. Make no mistake, becoming a Lion will open doors a man never knew even existed.

There are some tight calls; tighthead prop being the tightest. Were the Lions going to South Africa, Adam Jones would have got the nod. But in Australia, while scrummaging will be as vital as ever, tackle count and threat at the breakdown will be just as important. That, for me, gave Dan Cole the edge until Jones nudged him out yesterday. They are two top-of-the-range anchormen.

Full-back is also very difficult as Alex Goode, Rob Kearney, Leigh Halfpenny and indeed Ben Foden could all certainly do a stand-up job. But the one man to have really made his case in this Six Nations is Stuart Hogg. He wasn't electric in every game, but he showed glimpses of excellence and the Aussies won't know an awful lot about him. I like Hogg as a surprise package – if he is to be a surprise. Perhaps I ought to stop talking about him.

My Lions picks

1. Cian Healey (Ire) Out-and-out first choice.

2. Rory Best (Ire) Has to start, though Richard Hibbard and Tom Youngs have been excellent.

3. Adam Jones (Wal) Monstrous at scrum time, and does enough round the field when required. Came out on top yesterday.

4. Joe Launchbury (Eng) Does it all. Big, fit, powerful, a handful.

5. Jim Hamilton (Scot) Huge, nasty and confrontational. Had an immense Six Nations.

6. Stephen Ferris (Ire) Freak. Get him fit and get him on that plane.

7. Chris Robshaw (Eng) Constantly confounding doubters, he will do the work of three men.

8. Nick Easter (Eng) Yes, Nick Easter. A quite monumental player bang in form. Close call with Jonny Beattie, who was monstrous against England.

9. Ben Youngs (Eng) Mike Phillips needs some form and Youngs can rip a team apart with his pace.

10. Jonny Sexton (Ire) Has to be.

11. George North (Wal) Massive but effective with it. Very athletic, good work-rate and getting smarter by the week.

12. Manu Tuilagi (Eng) If Sexton uses him properly, he is a weapon of global proportions.

13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ire) The best player of a generation still has his spark. Inhuman.

14. Simon Zebo (Ire) Über-talented and brutally hard to defend against – if fit.

15. Stuart Hogg (Sco) Appears to have it all. Would love to see him given a chance.

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat