The revelation of the season has been Ireland's Simon Mason, who kicked his goals with a lovely action and did not put a foot wrong

Alan Watkins
Sunday 23 October 2011 09:04

When, on the final morning of the Five Nations' Championship, any one of three countries could have won the competition, I fail to see how it could be described as other than interesting. For myself, I felt no anti-climactic sense at Twickenham - especially as England did not secure the match until midway through the second half, when the English pack took the ball into their own large hands. In fact Dean Richards' hands are quite small, given the size of the rest of him, but no matter. We are now going to review the season by picking the Lions party for a hypothetical summer tour.

It has not been a great time for full-backs. Though Mike Catt recovered from his poor start, he has not, as the racing correspondents say, trained on. Justin Thomas has looked equally shaky at times. I would be tempted to go for Mike Rayer, if the unjustly discarded Paul Hull did not have a prior claim. The revelation of the season, however, has been Orrell and Ireland's Simon Mason, who on Saturday kicked his four goals with a lovely action and otherwise did not put a foot wrong, even if he did knock on once, fly-kicking the ball disgustedly into the crowd.

The centres choose themselves. Will Carling had perhaps his best season ever for England. Leigh Davies is a genuine Welsh discovery. Nigel Davies has shown that the ancient arts of centre play are not completely forgotten. While Jeremy Guscott made several misjudgements, his try against Wales was not quite the "soft" one the Welsh have been claiming it was. He is still a marvellous player.

I have talked to several good judges about Gregor Townsend's near miss against England. They were unanimous that - though Townsend might have scored if he had carried on - no other outside-half of modern times could have equalled his pace over such a distance; not Phil Bennett not David Watkins and certainly not Barry John. My choice as his companion on the trip is Neil Jenkins who, far from costing Wales matches, has often been the fig-leaf providing the scoreboard with a semblance of respectability. On Saturday he won the match by kicking the final goal which others would have missed.

There cannot be much argument about the scrum-halves. At the beginning of the season Bryan Redpath looked easily the best in the British Isles. By the end he had been supplanted by Robert Howley. Clearly they must both go.

Among the backs, I have left the wings till last, for this reason; suppose we play Hull at full-back and Townsend at outside-half. Who is going to do the goal-kicking? I should want the best kicker available, who is Michael Corcoran of London Irish. This leaves three places for genuine wings. Ieuan Evans is not a sentimental selection; after all his injuries, he seems as fast and alert as ever. Even before his fine try against Ireland, Jon Sleightholme looked a player of class. The final place is between Simon Geoghegan and Ken Logan. I am going for Logan because, if he had not made the break he did as a substitute, Scotland would not have beaten Wales. The Scottish selectors evidently do not share my admiration for him.

Propping is a mysterious business, even sometimes to props. My choice in conventional. Nick Popplewell - perhaps upset by all his club and residential moves - did not have a particularly good season by his standards. But he nevertheless goes on the trip, accompanied by John Davies, David Hilton and Jason Leonard.

The hookers have not been outstanding. England still miss Brian Moore. I am rejecting the current wisdom of the selectors of the home countries in restoring Garin Jenkins and recalling Graham Dawe before he becomes eligible for his Senior Railcard.

The outstanding locks have been Martin Johnson and Gareth Llewellyn. Presumably Johnson would jump at No 2 and Llewellyn at No 4. On form, Derwyn Jones deserves to go too, though people say he has too gentle a disposition. They say the same about the rejected Martin Bayfield. But I'm taking both of them all the same.

Among flankers, Rob Wainwright and Gwyn Jones were the leading performers. Ben Clarke, Lawrence Dallaglio and Ian Smith can also mount a case. As the reject's friend, I would prefer Tim Rodber as reserve No 6. As reserve No 7, Dallaglio narrowly gets in. At No 8 the only question is who is to accompany Richards. I choose Eric Peters.

The party: Full-backs: P Hull, S Mason. Wings: M Corcoran, I Evans, K Logan, J Sleightholme. Centres: W Carling, L Davies, N Davies, J Guscott. Outside-halves: N Jenkins, G Townsend. Scrum-halves: R Howley, B Redpath. Props: J Davies, D Hilton, J Leonard, N Popplewell. Hookers: G Dawe, G Jenkins. Locks: M Bayfield, M Johnson, D Jones, G Llewellyn. Flankers: L Dallaglio, G Jones, T Rodber, R Wainwright (capt). No 8: E Peters, D Richards.

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