David Flatman's Lion kings and paupers from Twickenham showdown
David Flatman's spoke to Warren Gatland recently and asked him most of the childish but-actually-interesting questions he could think to ask a British and Irish Lions head coach. Apart from his favourite books and movies, he asked if he, like all of us, draws up potential Lions teams in his mind after every Test match he watches. His answer was, effectively: "Nah, mate".
He did elaborate. Making the precise point Sir Ian McGeechan has made countless times, those first few weeks and matches on a Lions tour can bring amazing, unforeseen qualities out of some men and can dilute hugely the stock of others.
So to name a side now would be futile. Gatland does, however, have to name a squad and these Six Nations weekends have been fascinating when considering the wider aims of the players and the impacts of their actions.
As England sliced through Scotland's midfield like a team playing full contact against another playing touch on Saturday, I don't doubt for a second that Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones allowed an image of Gatland's disappointed glare to flash to their minds. In producing perhaps the most inept first phase defensive display of their careers, those normally robust and masterful centres might well have shredded their tickets to New Zealand.
Neither did the Grey franchisees, Richie and Jonny, do themselves any favours. For a while now, I've wondered if Jonny's prodigious work rate is quite prodigious enough to make up for his lack of brute force at Test level and on Saturday he was outgunned entirely by an English lock pairing bang in form.
Richie, though, has been quietly outperforming his much lauded younger brother but came unstuck when faced by the practically reborn Courtney Lawes, whose carrying and defence was quite outstanding again.
One player whose name has not, as far as I've seen, been included in many Lions sentences is Hamish Watson. A relatively small openside, he has a freakish power output and the tenacity to match it. In a pack utterly humbled, he was fantastic and must not be ruled out as a Lions tour fetcher. Fraser Brown, too, looked excellent, despite his crazy tip tackle that led to a costly yellow card. His dynamism, aggression with ball in hand and sheer power make him a Lions tourist for me.
Among the Englishman to issue roaring statements, Jonathan Joseph is the obvious one. Discarded two weeks ago, he humiliated Scotland with pace and footwork that left them looking like lamp posts in a park. A less obvious impact was made by Anthony Watson, whose pace when finishing a try courtesy of a pass from Joseph was breathtaking. Leaving those wheels at home would be a tough call and I suspect the All Blacks would love him to be overlooked, which makes him all the more appealing.
James Haskell makes it, too. Yes, he's a beastly player whose inclination to annihilate reigns over the desire to create but he does a tough job with ferocity. He's also a wonderful tourist, I can assure you, and Gatland knows well the value of squad chemistry.
Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour are scintillating players who, due to injury and a reversing forward pack respectively, had little chance to impress at Twickenham but their equity remains high. Finn Russell, meanwhile, probably needs to have a good game in the final round to top up his application for a fly-half spot, one of which Owen Farrell walked into long ago. It's fun to speculate. I reckon Gatland should try it
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