So the 2013 Six Nations championship has ended and weekends somehow seem bare. Yet the memories we can take from this year’s tournament will keep us warm until the Lions tour is upon us. And what memories they are. From an outstanding Welsh victory to win the tournament to the surprise of the French team receiving the wooden spoon, no one can say that these two positions in the final table were not richly deserved.
Aside from the dreadful first half display against the Irish, Wales did not concede a try, nor did they look like it. The Welsh regrouped and ground out hard fought wins until the final game against England was upon them. That game was a delight to watch, unless of course you are an English supporter. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility to see the entire Welsh 15 from that day picked for the Lions touring party, owing to their performances and not Warren Gatland’s Welsh disposition.
Let’s not forget Italy either. Their stunning victory over France followed up with 3 hard fought matches, including an agonisingly close encounter with England and then finishing with a delightful victory over Ireland. It seems the Italians posed a lot of questions for the Irish and the English exposing their respective weaknesses.
So it seems that Mr Gatland will have a tough decision when selecting his touring party. It seems that whilst there were those who certainly vehemently stated their case for inclusion, there were also those who seemed to shy away from the spotlight and fade from memory. Those standing out for their positive performances would be Leigh Halfpenny, Geoff Parling and Stuart Hogg. It seems hard to pick many positive displays from a distinctly lacklustre Irish team for the entire tournament. However, some performances won’t warrant inclusion, for example Alex Goode, Chris Ashton and Euan Murray, who had been previously touted for selection.
With the results of the tournament reflecting the performances of the teams, it serves to show that the Lions party will undoubtedly have a majority of Welsh names on the sheet and that Ireland will be struggling for numbers through injury and poor performance. The English contingent will no doubt be strong, but not as many as they would like. The Scots traditionally have a handful of numbers but there were some cracking performances in their ranks which can provide hope of a vociferous tartan touring party.
The captaincy will be up for grabs, with Sam Warburton seemingly playing better when not captaining Wales, but this could be the making of him. Brain O’Driscoll will surely put his name in the hat given his experience and undeniable talent, but are his performances good enough? You can then look for the leaders in your team, the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, to put their hands up and be the man to roar the Lions to victory. Chris Robshaw will no doubt be in the party, but does he command the respect of the tourists with his lack of experience?
It will inevitably be the source of much debate, deliberation and bar room talk as to who should go and who should stay. The selection dilemma this year seems stronger than ever and it will no doubt need some bold decisions from Gatland and the management to pick the right blend of experience, talent, flair and athleticism to cut the Wallabies down to size come June.
Thanks to Shop Rugby for their kind donation to Dan’s London Marathon fundraising appeal!