What would I give to be a pro rugby player? If only for a chance to tour with the Lions. So here it is, another instalment, that no-one is probably reading, on what has been an interesting Tour so far. A few surprises this week, after the Tahs game, especially with the call up of Shane Williams, but this game gave another indication of how they are building.
Some excellent performances here, Simon Zebo especially looked liked being the classic Lions 'bolter' and with some luck with injuries to others, will start the first Test. Jonathan Davies also put his hand up for selection. His hands, running lines and defence were superb. Admittedly I think he thrives because he plays alongside Jamie Roberts, who sadly now looks like he won't recreate his ourstanding 2009 tour centre partnership with BOD, due to an injury picked up in this game. Tom Croft as well ran in a great try, I think Croft coming from the bench when the game is breaking up and the Aussies tiring, is a cracking option for Gatland.
Leigh Halfpenny's record haul of 30 points also shows he must start. I rate Rob Kearney and as a Scottish fan am thrilled at how Stuart Hogg is playing, but the Welshman's ability under the high ball, his defence and his 100% goalkicking make him nailed on. Paul O'Connell as well highlighted his place in the Test side is nearly secured. His handling, lineout work and defence were excellent in this game. Also, Sam Warburton is starting to fire again at the breakdown, his forte, but I am still not sure, purely on form, he is the starting 7 - that for me is still Justin Tipuric.
So some great signs for the Lions. They were made to work hard, but I don't think 47-17 flattered them. The Tahs were a huge physical test and Drew Mitchell, who, but for two serious leg breaks in two years, could still be an Aussie starter, posed some great tests for the tourists. I'm still a little concerned defensively. The first Waratahs try was full of the ingenuity the Aussies will conjure. A smart cross-field kick, strong running, great offload, good finish. George North and Tommy Bowe can't get fit soon enough. Their height in defence will help guard against this ploy, if nothing else. Also the gainline was broken too easily on occasion, I think Andy Farrell will be working them extra hard this week!
I'm interested to see how Rory Best gets on vs the Brumbies tomorrow, as I believe, with a good game, he could put himself in contention for that first Test. He should never have been left out of the original squad, but I'm sure he will prove that in the Aussie capital.
My Test 15 will come after the Brumbies game, but I don't think any of the new faces who have joined the Tour will make it even to the bench. Gatland asked for backline versatility to cover the injury worries he had with his 10s, Owen Farrell and Jonny Sexton. Instead of calling on the most versatile and exciting 10/12 in the northern hemisphere, James Hook, he called for Billy Twelvetrees. A big, ball carrying 12, who occasionally plays 10. Not massively versatile or different to his current options. Christian Wade is an exciting winger, but again, I don't think he is good enough, yet, defensively, to push for a Test place, even with the injuries. Then there's Shane Williams. Arguably the best northern hemisphere winger for the past decade, BUT retired from international rugby and currently plying his trade in Japanese club rugby. There is no doubt he is just filling in for one game. At least I hope that's the case!
The excitement starts to build now. I have the honour of being Best Man on the day of the first Test, but I'll still find time to watch it! Come on the Lions!!