Selection double standards add to Welsh chorus of disappointment

Sir Clive Woodward's British and Irish Lions are a bit like Tony Blair's House of Lords. There are so many of them that it is almost a sign of distinction to be left out in the cold.

Sir Clive Woodward's British and Irish Lions are a bit like Tony Blair's House of Lords. There are so many of them that it is almost a sign of distinction to be left out in the cold.

Most commentators, myself included, will have seen their own pet XV included in the party. There is, however, one exception. I had Steve Thompson as first-choice hooker, and he is duly among the 44. But several of my colleagues picked Mefin Davies instead, and he is not even on the trip. Of the four home-nations hookers, Davies, by common consent, had the best international season. And yet he is not among the four hookers that Sir Clive is taking to New Zealand.

This is absurd. Davies should clearly be travelling, and so should Robin McBryde, at the expense of Andrew Titterrell and Shane Byrne. Indeed, the whole extended front row bears a distinctly odd aspect. Ireland's Marcus Horan, Scotland's Tom Smith, and Wales' Duncan Jones and Adam Jones can count themselves unlucky; John Hayes, Andrew Sheridan and Matt Stevens are on the fortunate side. In the absence of Phil Vickery, and continuing doubts about the fitness of Julian White, I would have sent a signal to John Davies on his West Wales farmstead.

In previous Lions tours, it is true, unexpected props have popped up, metaphorically rather than literally. In New Zealand in 1971 there were Sean Lynch and Ian McLauchlan; in South Africa in 1997, Paul Wallace and Smith. But I doubt whether Sheridan, Titterrell and Hayes will prove to be the scourge of the All Blacks in 2005.

Over the locks, by contrast, I have no quarrel at all. Steve Borthwick is perhaps a shade unlucky not to be among them, and one can only hope that Malcolm O'Kelly has a happier time with Sir Clive than he had with Graham Henry, the then Lions head coach, on the 2001 expedition to Australia.

Several other players suffered unhappy experiences on that trip. Some of them are going on this tour; others not. Two of those who are going are Iain Balshaw and Matt Dawson. Balshaw underwent a crisis of confidence from which he is only now recovering. Sir Clive has shown some boldness in picking him before Mark Cueto, who is entitled to a grumble or two. But then, the notion of the pure wing, as of the pure full-back, seems to be disappearing: the only specialist wings are Denis Hickie and Shane Williams.

I am glad that Dawson is on the tour, and even more glad that I do not have to share a room with him. But perhaps, in these days of Woodwardism - nothing is too good for our players - sharing a room is a thing of the past. At all events, he remains a very good scrum-half and, with Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Neil Back, knows what it is like to win a Test in the Southern Hemisphere.

Someone else who had an unhappy tour last time round is Colin Charvis. He is not even on the aeroplane this time. Before Christmas, one would have predicted that he was a certainty for a party of this size, and a possibility for the Test team. Perhaps he, like Jason White, has suffered from the luxuriance of talent in the back row.

At the same time I feel that Sir Clive is applying double standards. With some players, he is prepared to take a punt both on that player's recovery from injury and on his continuation of form. Examples here are Hill, Will Greenwood and, to a certain extent, Balshaw and White. This is not an indulgence which he is prepared to extend to Charvis.

There is an additional category, what may be called the "If and When Club". This includes Mike Tindall, Vickery and Jonny Wilkinson, the greatest of these being, of course, Wilkinson. To accommodate him Sir Clive has distorted his party by choosing three instead of four outside halves, where he should have taken David Humphreys and Andy Goode in addition to Ronan O'Gara and Stephen Jones.

In betting terms I have enjoyed my most successful season ever, £900 to the good after backing Wales for the Six Nations Championship. If I had invested in a Grand Slam - which I did not think they would manage - I should, of course, have been even better off. And if Leicester win the Heineken Cup I stand to gain a further £550. If they fail, I lose £100, so reducing my season's profits to £800. A modest man, I am happy with that, and shall not be risking any money on the Lions in New Zealand.

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