Lions are on everyone’s lips

The Six Nations kicks-off this weekend with every team hoping to take the title and every player in the England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales squads dreaming of using the tournament as a springboard for British & Irish Lions selection. [more]

Lions are on everyone’s lips

The Six Nations kicks-off this weekend with every team hoping to take the title and every player in the England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales squads dreaming of using the tournament as a springboard for British & Irish Lions selection.

The stakes couldn’t be higher as the northern hemisphere’s showpiece competition gets underway and everyone is starting to put themselves in the shoes of Lions head coach Ian McGeechan in trying to select a Test XV to face the Springboks in June.

Three former Lions, 1997 legends Jeremy Guscott and Lawrence Dallaglio and 1993 tourist Stuart Barnes, picked their starting line-ups for the vital first Test team to face the reigning world champions in Durban on Saturday, June 20.

The Sunday Times rugby columnists chose their sides alongside the Sunday paper’s highly respected rugby correspondent Stephen Jones.

Their teams raised some interesting points:
 
– only four players made it into all three line-ups
– all four nations were represented in all bar one team
– there were three different choices in four positions
– there were a number of players included who aren’t starting in this weekend’s matches
 
While all three men plumped for a second successive Welsh triumph in this season’s championship, former England skipper Dallaglio felt far more hopeful for his team’s chances. Placing them as runners-up in the championship, he selected eight Englishmen in his starting line-up for Durban – seven of them from his old club London Wasps.

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Both Dallaglio and Barnes chose Danny Cipriani to fill the problematic No 10 jersey, despite his relegation to the England Saxons XV this weekend, while Guscott went for the currently injured Jonny Wilkinson.

Dallaglio opted for Leicester’s Harry Ellis to partner Cipriani, while both Guscott and Barnes opted for the towering physical presence of Wales’ Mike Phillips at scrum half.

The four players who made it into all three teams were Wales and Ospreys full back Lee Byrne, his club mate and current IRB World Player of the Year Shane Williams, Ireland’s 2005 Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll and Ireland and Munster lock Paul O’Connell.

No surprises there, perhaps, but there were a few contentious selections. Barnes went for Scotland’s Thom Evans as his right wing and Ireland’s openside expert David Wallace at No 8.

Guscott and Dallaglio want Simon Shaw, one of only four players still playing full-time rugby from the last Lions tour to South Africa in 1997, to partner O’Connell in the second row, while Dallaglio sees Cardiff Blues sensation Andy Powell as the No 8 ahead of his Welsh skipper Ryan Jones.
Guscott and Barnes want Gavin Henson to team up with O’Driscoll at centre, while Dallaglio opts for his former Wasps team mate Rikki Flutey at No 12 – four years after he played against Lions for Wellington.

Why not compare your starting line-up with the ‘experts’ and see who is right come 20 June?
 
Jeremy Guscott’s Lions Test XV
Lee Byrne (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Gavin Henson (Wales), Shane Williams (Wales); Jonny Wilkinson (England), Mike Phillips (Wales); Andrew Sheridan (England), Ross Ford (Scotland), Euan Murray (Scotland), Simon Shaw (England), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), James Haskell (England), David Wallace (Ireland), Ryan Jones (Wales)
 
Stuart Barnes’ Lions Test XV
Lee Byrne (Wales); Thom Evans (Scotland), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Gavin Henson (Wales), Shane Williams (Wales); Danny Cipriani (England), Mike Phillips (Wales); Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Lee Mears (England), Phil Vickery (England), Nathan Hines (Scotland), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Ryan Jones (Wales), Martyn Williams (Wales), David Wallace (Ireland)
 
Lawrence Dallaglio’s Lions Test XV
Lee Byrne (Wales); Paul Sackey (England), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Rikki Flutey (England), Shane Williams (Wales); Danny Cipriani (England), Harry Ellis (England); Tim Payne (England), Jerry Flannery (Ireland), Phil Vickery (England), Simon Shaw (England), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), James Haskell (England), Martyn Williams (Wales), Andy Powell (Wales)

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