Simon Shaw: Count on BOD... for starters
My Lions for First Test: O'Driscoll's experience demands selection in the opener but his place may be in doubt after Brisbane
Sunday 09 June 2013
It feels like only five minutes since I was pulling on a Lions jersey during the epic series in South Africa, but here we are four years on in Australia and I will be heading Down Under in time for the First Test to roar the 2013 team on from the stands. These are the men I'd pick to bag a vital win in Brisbane on 22 June:
15. Leigh Halfpenny I played against him in the Heineken Cup this season and he's a seriously good player. It's true Rob Kearney sat behind Lee Byrne on the last tour and ultimately came through, but Halfpenny is my starting full-back for his combination of attack, defence and goal-kicking.
14. Alex Cuthbert Although my first choice was Tommy Bowe, a class operator with his running lines and clever angles off the wing, so his injury is a blow.
13. Brian O'Driscoll Will play the First Test, but whether he plays the next two will depend on how he gels with whoever he's playing with and whether he has that sparkle. He's got an eye, he's a footballer, he's always got that ability to do something special – but does he do it as often as he used to? He may not have the pace of before, but there again, as you get older you learn how to compensate. It's a funny one for me; part of the make-up of any gifted player is to try things and have the guts to keep trying and not be shackled by having made a mistake. Brian has the confidence to do that over and over again, so people remember all the fantastic things he does and forget the little occasional error.
12. Jamie Roberts A confident start against the Barbarians last week and he does everything well. He's a huge man, able to make the hard yards. Manu Tuilagi is a bit too much crash, bang, wallop. Jonathan Davies is a good back-up.
11. George North Played excellently yesterday – he's a machine with his breaks and the other little bits of influence that he exerts.
10. Jonny Sexton Has been around a while and looks the guy to take this Lions team forward. He consistently makes the pass that needs to be made, the kick that needs to be kicked, which makes it happy days for both centres and forwards. That is what gives him the edge. Owen Farrell? It's not to be down on the guy and I think he's got a great skill-set, but he gets involved in the rough stuff too much. His demeanour isn't that of a calm and collected No 10 and opponents will surely play on that.
9. Mike Phillips A shoo-in for me with Ben Youngs on the bench, though I feel Youngs could have tested Queensland round the fringes more yesterday; he did it once with his brother off a line-out and made good ground.
1. Dan Cole I liked the look of the front row yesterday when the Leicester forward came on at loosehead. None of the Lions' other looseheads are big scrummaging props. Mako Vunipola is a carrier and quite explosive and the same could be said for Alex Corbisiero. I would have taken Andy Sheridan but that's a whole different issue.
2. Tom Youngs I really like him. There was a time when I would see him start and think: 'Nah, he's just too small.' But his tenacity has impressed me and he is also strong and aggressive.
3. Adam Jones A favourite of mine – one of the Lions I played with in 2009 and the most solid prop I've played behind since Alan Sharp many years ago at Bristol. Sometimes you have a very comfortable relationship with a prop – just the height of their backside or the length of their legs seems right – and he seems to have those kind of relationships in whichever team he plays for.
4. Richie Gray I have to say there is no obvious choice for me in this position. I'm not a big fan of two roamers in the second row and I worry that Gray tends to come in and out of games. Alun Wyn Jones would be my bench lock.
5. Paul O'Connell The middle jumper with his leadership and his work-rate. He doesn't make big yards but you know if Paul gets smashed back once he will constantly be there again and eventually he will make the necessary yards or that key offload. He hasn't had a lot of line-out ball yet but that may be their system, allowing him to check out if he's being marked up.
6. Sam Warburton This is so much about balance and combinations. Something that works at my club, Toulon, is having no defined six, seven and eight. It gets mixed up. So I would have the Lions captain wearing six, but playing left and right off the scrums.
7. Sean O'Brien It's harsh on Dan Lydiate, who is a terrific worker, but against Australia I would like to see two flankers who get over the ball a lot. The more we slow down their ball the better!
8. Jamie Heaslip It comes down to his rugby intelligence; that gives him the edge over Toby Faletau.
Simon Shaw is riding with a group of rugby players from London to Paris to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Restart Rugby. It starts on 18 July. Joining him will be Nick Easter, Serge Betsen, Tim Payne, Kenny Logan and others. To take part, contact Ian@setpieceevents.co.uk. To sponsor, visit www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/TeamKarma or donate £5 by texting KARM49 to 70070
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