Paul O'Connell

Paul O’Connell

The Lions have selected five locks for their tour with two, Paul O’Connell (Ireland) and Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) having been part of all three tests in 2009 against South Africa – O’Connell as captain.

I expect that O’Connell will be an automatic selection for the first test – he has the toughness and experience that any coach would want in their pack – even without being captain he’s a strong leader on the field. He plays both sides of the scrum but seems to prefer playing loosehead lock, makes a good contribution around the field and is a good lineout operator as well as an experienced lineout caller. He does the work in tight that you want to see a lock doing but does not offer many threats in attack.

Richie Gray

Richie Gray

The choice to partner O’Connell will probably come down to two players – Richie Gray (Scotland) and Jones. Geoff Parling (England) is a solid player and may come into contention during the tour.

Jones has the experience of 70 tests for Wales and has been a solid performer for Warren Gatland – he plays both lock and blindside flanker and was considered a potential captain for this tour – he’s also a lineout caller.

Gray plays on both sides of the scrum but is a good tighthead lock, has a really good work rate around the field and is a good lineout option. He plays tight when required but also offers something extra in attack when he does get wider – despite his size he is quite mobile. He has shown that he can be an attacking threat, although his form in the 2013 Six Nations was nothing special. At 2.05 metres (6 feet 9 inches) tall and 120 kilograms he’d be the biggest man on the field regardless of who the Wallabies select.

Alan Wyn Jones

Alan Wyn Jones

The second lock spot is one that may well be decided by performances in the lead up matches before the first test although I expect the following:

4. Richie Gray (although I expect he’ll pack at tighthead lock despite the number)

5. Paul O’Connell (who likes to wear number 5 regardless of which side of the scrum he’s packing on)

19. Alun Wyn Jones (particularly with his versatility as a lock / flanker)

Northern hemisphere teams are good exponents of the driving maul from lineouts so it will be no surprise to see the Lions forward pack testing the Wallabies with this tactic. When the Wallabies try this tactic themselves they’ll find that O’Connell and Gray are both good at disrupting opposition mauls. O’Connell is good at working through the middle of a maul and Gray uses his height to reach over the top and try to pull the ball carrier in.

As you’ll see on Monday the Lions back row I’m expecting to be selected are all good lineout jumpers which will give the Lions five front line jumpers. Unless the Wallabies are planning on giving the Lions easy ball from the lineout this Lions threat will have to be countered which I discuss on page 2.

Watch the video below for some examples of what I think we can expect from my predicted Lions lock choices.

Pages: 1 2

  • Piggy

    but Eddie Jones insists Dennis must be in the starting lineup as he is the best line out caller…

    I can’t recall Horwill ever calling the line outs for the Reds, it’s normally Simmons – who seems to do a bloody good job, or was AWH earlier on. Higgers will call them as he’ll be jumping at 2. In defense I reckon the Lions will just bang POC or Gray up at 2 every time and make Moore get passed that…

    I hope we’ve got a counter-attacking fullback…

    • Scott Allen

      Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve disagreed with Eddie Jones views!

      I’ve seen Horwill call for the Reds – he’s quite good but has said publicly that allowing someone else to call made his job as captain much easier, so Simmons took the role.

    • 1. The lineout caller generally shouldn’t stand at 2 because in doing so is unable to clearly see options that are on at the back. Being closer to the back however enables the caller to see all viable jumping options front, middle and back.

      2. Putting your best jumpers at 2 on Defence is not often seen, as leaving the back open enables teams to launch much wider with an easier pass from halfback. If anything they will put an explosive back rower at 2 so he can either be single lifted at the front or be able to move to. Ofcourse this all hinges on the back row combination they select.

    • Patrick

      I’m sure Pyle could cope :(

  • Joker

    Just put Timani in a cherry picker, that should be able to lift him.

  • david baldwin

    I got a Lions Jersey the other day as a present – as a Wallabies fan, born in Australia, I never thought the day would come when I would not support my team. Increasingly I have found myself wishing them to lose so that Deans gets the arse BUT – I have to say this – If Deans picks Genia as captain over Horwill I will proudly wear the Lions jersey to the test match. He cannot have so little respect for the position of captain as to chop and change just to suit an inept selection. The fact he left our best player out of the squad made me consider wearing the Lions jersey in protest, however if he does as Scott suggests I will never forgive him!!

    • stoff

      Treason! You should be hung drawn and quartered (I’m joking).

      Seriously though, hated Deans, but don’t hate the Wallabies. No matter what the coaching staff are doing, the boys need our loud and vocal support – thats what the Lions supporters will be bringing. In the overall scheme of things I would take a Lions series win over Deans getting the arse every day of the week. That is one hole in a relatively empty trophy cabinet that we can’t fill again for another 12 years.

  • Cam Thomson

    Scott – great article but I have to ask you to stop writing these.

    It’s just to bloody depressing to read.

  • abr

    More great detail Scott.
    On the line out calling issue – why couldn’t Moore take this on? That’s how they did it in the olden days.

    • Scott Allen

      There are two ways to call the lineout.

      The first is to call before you walk in (normally in a huddle away from the lineout) and then when you walk in if the opposition have marked up where you planned to call or have left space in a different slot, use an override call to call into the space that now exists.

      The second is to call once you are in the line in reaction to what the opposition are doing.

      In both cases the caller needs to consider where the space is, what the opposition are doing, who they’ve got stationed where etc. Sometimes you can work out what the opposition are planning to do just by watching little things like their feet. There are so many variables that must be considered in a very short space of time and a caller standing near the middle of the lineout has the best chance to see more than even a caller standing at the front or back of the lineout.

      The thrower would find it difficult to see enough of these things from the touch line and even if they can see some of them will not be able to react as fast as a caller near the middle of the lineout. In addition they need to be concentrating on the throw so have enough to focus on.

      In the olden days, when there was no lifting there were not the space opportunities that exist today which can be exploited if you have a good caller in the right position within the lineout.

      • wannabprop

        Thanks for the analysis Scott. I have to wonder, with abr’s suggestion, if the the thrower called the line out that would automatically give them focus (a space they ‘owned’). I understand that they wouldn’t see as many opportunities however. Also, who called the lineouts when Sharpe captained last year?

  • Scott Allen

    Sorry for being such a heathen – fixed now.

  • Pedro

    Mowen and Higginbotham are good jumpers. Any chance they will be 6 & 8? I don’t think it would be wise to have Palu and Timani both starting. But I fear that is what Deans will do.

    • redbull

      +1 million

  • What if mower is chosen at 6? He’s a good caller isn’t he?

    • Pedro

      Plus he keeps the grass short.

      • Can’t run without feet! Mowen of course…

  • Hengest

    Have to disagree slightly on test locks, i think you will see Gray miss out as he has been poor all season for club and country. Parling has just had the season of his life, will likely call the line out and has an excellent relationship with Croft who will be the number one line out forward.

    • Madflyhalf

      I agree!
      Gray has been poor and he’s probably the only Gatland selection based on reputation than on form (POC and Bowe have regained form immediatly after recovery from their injury).

      Parling has been the standout lock of the 6N and English Premiership, probably won’t start as Alun Wyn Jones (who never played 6, it’s Ryan Jones who can play 4 or 6) has a massive experience with the Lions, he performed greatly in the 2009 tour.

      Unless Gray doesn’t show some good form in the warm-ups, we won’t see him in the match day 23.

      • dragonbreath

        I think you will find that AWJ has played 6. It was a car crash mind you much to slow

      • Scott Allen

        Alun Wyn Jones has started at #6 on 4 occasions in test matches – he also switches to #6 late in matches when reserves come on.

        In the video with this article you’ll see that he played the last 20 minutes of the third test against Australia in 2012 in Sydney at #6.

        He’s started at #4 on 16 occasions in tests and at #5 in 43 tests. The remaining 10 test in his career to date have been off the bench where he’s played in all three positions.

        It’s rare to have a guy that has started in tests at 4, 5 and 6 and that makes him a valuable bench option.

        • Madflyhalf

          Ok he has played there! :D And I missed it!

          But you really think that 4 caps at 6 vs. 59 at lock (5 or 4 doesn’t matter, he can pack to both side), makes him a viable option at blindside flanker with Lydyate, Tipuric, Warburton and SOB in the mix, 4 flankers who can easily cover openside and blindside?

          The answer is no. Because the Lions will field the best tight five specialist in each single position, on june 22 (would be mad if not).
          They just don’t need a lock who can cover the flanker spot, they want a 2 second rows, working as 2nd rowers, with the relative backup on the bench.

          The fact that AWJ can (sometimes, with some opposition) cover the blindside spot, is not even near to the criteria of selection for the Lions.

          I agree though he will be in the match 23, but just because he’s the third best second row in the Home Unions. Because he has experience at that level, and because he’s been in good form since his comeback in 6N.

          Saying that, as you showed they has skilled lineout jumpers and the master POC, but the Lions must be attacked at the lineout.

          Lineout has been a great liability for them in 2001 and 2009 (I don’t even count 2005, as the lineout was the last of their problems): they will have a relative short time to prepare their lineouts and lineout calls, and in the latter stage of the matches, some key throw can go to the wind (or in WBs hands!) if a good pressure is applied!

          Hope Deans and the Wallabies will correctly train and do that, or it would be a wasted opportunity!

      • Nick Hill

        I agree that Gray has been poor all season and was very lucky to tour. I would have had Launchbury. However if Gray finds form he is our best lock in my opinion but thats a big if.

        I disagree that he is the only player there on reputation. Lydiate has only played a few games all year but he gets the spot over Robshaw. Heaslip was terrible in the 6n should have been Morgan or Beatie. I also think Tom Wood has had a far stronger year than Warburton who has had one good game all year.

  • Big Sam

    Alun Wyn Jones is alright around the ground, but I was more impressed with his performance in “Homeland”

  • ben

    How come you dont get this angry at the constant misspelling of polynesian and maori names on here!!

  • Davy

    Great analysis Scott,
    But I am still trying to qualify and recover from your assessment in podslam 100 that State of Origin is bigger than the Lions tour. Really?!
    Scott I believed in you as a true guru of our great game. A rugby prophet shaming the likes of Kearns and Martin with their inane platitudes

    I had to go and sit in a dark room and cradle all my lions paraphernalia from the hurt you caused.

    • I feel your pain mate, but the unfortunate truth of it is the ridiculous hype that the SOO gets out here. It’s nuts and out of all proportion

      • Scott Allen

        Matt – one of the things you may get to experience now that you’re back in Australia is going to Suncorp Stadium for a decider in State Of Origin.

        It’s not the same in Sydney because you don’t get a sellout and the crowd are too far away from the field.

        Once you’ve seen the pressure live I’ll be interested to hear your views on proportion. Until then you’re not qualified to comment as an almost Pommy!!

    • Scott Allen

      If I said a State Of Origin was bigger than a Lions test I misspoke.

      But I consider they are at an equal level for pressure on the players.

  • The Ham

    Actually it seems to be “Alun-Wyn Jones” NOT “Alun Wyn Jones”. Alun-Wyn (with a hyphen) does this himself for his username/handle on his twitter account: Alun-Wyn Jones@AlunWynJones

    • Scott Allen

      I researched the hyphen before publishing.

      None of the Ospreys, Wales or The Lions use the hyphen. If all of the teams he plays for have missed the hyphen, that’s embarrassing.

      Maybe the Twitter account was set up by someone for him?

      I’m not 100% sure so maybe a Welshman can tell us.

  • GlasUlsterman

    I don’t think it’ll be Gray or Jones or Parling at all to partner O’Connell. The man I expect to be there is Ian Evans, who has been one of the standout Welsh players this year. He’s a good lineout operator and gives a big option in the scrum and on the deck. Not the most mobile but in far better form than all the others. Gray on the bench for impact.

    • Redders

      I think you are right. Scott as just excluded him which is odd.

      • Scott Allen

        As above.

    • Scott Allen

      No doubt Evans is a good player (and I didn’t mean to ignore him) but I think the Lions will want some balance in the team. If O’Connell is selected to start, you’ve got a fairly straight up and down player. Starting with Evans gives you more of the same.

      I think the only lock that provides something different to O’Connell and can provide a different impact is Gray.

      Evans may well deserve the bench spot for a lock but Jones has the flexibility to cover locks and #6 so that’s why I expect he’ll be on the bench ahead of Evans.

  • Blackmark

    4. Douglas
    5. Horwill
    6. Mohan
    7. Gill
    8. Hingginbotham.
    All offer options in the lineout, problem solved.
    Timani & Palu are bit part players who wouldn’t be mentioned if they played for the Force.

    McMeniman & Simmons would also be handy if injuries occur.

    No, we can’t match the Lions 100% but do we really want to? It will compromise our strengths (speed and movement) where they can’t match us.

    • redbull

      Who is Mohan? There are many Indians playing rugby in Australia?

  • Klaus

    Scott I would love to see the Wallabies win rate, both attack and defensive for Lineout callers. I would say Simmons would be well above anyone including Sharpe. If my thoughts are accurate then it’s a no brainer. Timani is good in the scrum no doubt but everywhere else he would be lucky to make a Club 1st XV.

  • redbull

    Do people seriously want to keep banging on about the Wallatahs are going to thrash the Lions?

  • Robbie Fahy here’s analysis of the Lions team from ,might be of interest to some people who are getting to know the players in the touring squad and our thoughts on them in the Northern Hemisphere!


Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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