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
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel: