Lions in SA

ozzyian

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Personally I have never really accepted the fact that Russel isn't a good enough kicker. What has happened is that for one reason or another Russel has been in teams with established high grade kickers and although is perfectly capable, hasn't. Certainly when he was the regular kicker at Glasgow he was in the 85% bracket. If you can kick at 85% in Scotland (where on occasion it is breezy) playing for a team like Glasgow (lots of wingers tries next to the corner flag) at 85% you're good enough in favourable conditions where a lot of the tries will be rumbled over near the posts. Is he as good as Biggar or Halfpenny? no and no, but they are the best in the business.

So, Handel, in terms of kicking, if you could be convinced that Russel is the equal of Farrell what would you think then? It goes without saying that behind a Lions pack he'll be worth 6 or 8 points a game over Farrell - and that's if Farrell were to get the end of each game without cards.

I would play Hogg - he's the best quality attacking 15 in the country and now back in top form. Whisper it, but since his move south they may even have ironed out the defensive questions there undoubtedly were. I'd play Russel too - for sure and I'd have him kicking. Might even have my arm twisted and play Ally Price. That guy Ford at Squidge Rugby (have you seen it) shows a few things he does on and off the ball that are quite exceptional and he really rates him in his video analysis.

Anyway, here you go Handel ;) not sure what you can make of the corrected value but interesting to see Russel ahead of Farrell on simple percentages.

https://www.ruck.co.uk/ranked-these-are-statistically-the-best-goal-kickers-in-the-world/
 

salarchaser

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This is all a bit negative. I was trying to get Roag Fisher to say who he would pick not who he wouldn't. International selectors have always had to undergo balancing acts with some players. The ABs always picked Meads even though he was a thug. They picked Richard Loe - even worse. But then they have history and it did come back to bite them in 2017. Wales to their embarrassment picked Brian Thomas back in the 1960s, should have been locked up. More recently SA picked Bakkies Botha, utter thug. By contrast Woodward left out Grewcock (mentally unbalanced, should have been banned from playing) in 2001/2 and replaced him with Kay - but with Kay and Shaw available he had choices. OK life has moved on and there are more people watching so some of those I have mentioned would not have been worth the risk.

So getting back to the subject the Lions selectors have a balancing act. Farrell is the man in possession of the 12 shirt (from 2017 in NZ) and is a good (but not great) goal kicker. If they play him at 12 he gives them options. There aren't a lot of choices at 12. Wales play Jon Davies out of position there. I am not sure who Scotland's first choice is. So Henshaw and, perhaps, Tuilangi (!). And then we get back to goal kicking. In SA goal kicking matters, particularly at altitude. Go back to the 1997 tour and the Lions shoe horned Neil Jenkins into the team. He wasn't worth a place except he was a great (over used word but true in his case) goal kicker.

There is some footage on YouTube of one of the earlier games on that tour, the home team gave away a penalty at a lineout closer to the Lions goal line than their 10 metre line, the Lions captain turned to Jenkins who signalled he could kick it, on trotted the boy with the bucket of sand, derision whistled from all parts of the home crowd, Jenkins kicked the penalty, after it went over absolute silence, Jenkins didn't start jumping around like some soccer player he trotted back to position as if it was the most normal thing in the world, and the kick had 10 metres to spare having travelled at least 70. Kicking matters at altitude in SA.
My post wasnt intended to be negative, just factual.
Agree over your reference to 'thugs'. However, while every team needs its enforcer ( Martin Johnson?), there is a line that shouldnt be (allowed to be) crossed.
SA taking out Bomb illegally was a huge scrummage loss.
As for Farrell, will his kicks gain us more than a possible red card? Its a risk to be evaluated.
Interesting to reference Jenkins big kicks at altitude as he wasnt a big kicker.
He knew to the inch how far he could kick and never took on something he didnt think he could make, hence his high %age success.
At sea level, he never took on a kick from his own half, and usually not much further than the 10 yd line, even for Ponty in his early days.

No doubt a high %age goal kicker needed in the test team to give us a chance. Need to keep 15 players on the park as well.
 

Handel

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Very interesting website Ian, thanks for that not seen it before. Their value added scoring is quite ambitious. As far as I can make out what it is telling us about Russell's kicking is that he only takes easy ones and as a result gets 3 for value added even though his success rate is high. Amazing how far out in front Halfpenny is. I can't see how he makes the cut given the competition in the back three. But that table suggests Biggar should make the cut, his problem is Gatland doesn't like him. And then there is Farrell. I am surprised how well he comes out in that table as it is not long ago that Daly took all the long kicks for England. There is a player who has lost his way.

Anyway that table rather persuades me that Russell is nowhere near Farrell as a kicker. But then so what, what matters is what Townsend and Jenkins want and I can't see Jenkins entrusting Russell with kicking duties.

As to Jenkins as a kicker salarchaser, I think you have hit the point on the head. Jenkins had excellent technique, his kicks flew straight so at altitude they just kept on going. He will be looking for a kicker with that technique.
 

billy fish

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My two fly half’s would be Biggar and Russell with Farrell maybe going as a fly half/ Center.
Certain elements of Biggars character irritate the hell out of me but his playing is top notch . Russell is a game changer and must be in the match day 23 at least . Too many question marks over the Farrell selection especially his tackling and concussion issues . He is a ”warrior “ though and it might be foolish to leave him out of the touring party .
I‘m off to find a hard hat.
 

Kype King

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My two fly half’s would be Biggar and Russell with Farrell maybe going as a fly half/ Center.
Certain elements of Biggars character irritate the hell out of me but his playing is top notch . Russell is a game changer and must be in the match day 23 at least . Too many question marks over the Farrell selection especially his tackling and concussion issues . He is a ”warrior “ though and it might be foolish to leave him out of the touring party .
I‘m off to find a hard hat.
I agree with you about Biggar Colin! He’s very irritating but always plays well for Wales and that ‘in your face’ attitude is what you need in South Africa. Actually think that George Ford is the best fly half available (I can hear howls of derision but have a look at Squidge Rugby’s analysis on him!). Give him a 9 who can pass (Young’s can’t) and a 12 who is a threat with ball in hand (Farrell isn’t) and he is world class. Never going to happen for the lions, which is a shame. Remember with nostalgic fondness how he got the Bath back line going with Stringer at 9 (best passer of a ball I‘ve ever seen!) and Eastmond at 12. Those were the days....!
 

salarchaser

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I agree with you about Biggar Colin! He’s very irritating but always plays well for Wales and that ‘in your face’ attitude is what you need in South Africa. Actually think that George Ford is the best fly half available (I can hear howls of derision but have a look at Squidge Rugby’s analysis on him!). Give him a 9 who can pass (Young’s can’t) and a 12 who is a threat with ball in hand (Farrell isn’t) and he is world class. Never going to happen for the lions, which is a shame. Remember with nostalgic fondness how he got the Bath back line going with Stringer at 9 (best passer of a ball I‘ve ever seen!) and Eastmond at 12. Those were the days....!
Gats tends to like a 'robust' 10.
Not sure Ford fits that bill. At times England try to hide him defensively. Agree about his ability to get a back line moving and control a game with kicking though. Its his defence that will have him playing catch up.
A 12 who he could shovel $h!t to and a 9 who wouldnt put him in that position and he'd have a chance.
9 is one of our problem positions with no stand out candidate.
 

ozzyian

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My two fly half’s would be Biggar and Russell with Farrell maybe going as a fly half/ Center.
Certain elements of Biggars character irritate the hell out of me but his playing is top notch . Russell is a game changer and must be in the match day 23 at least . Too many question marks over the Farrell selection especially his tackling and concussion issues . He is a ”warrior “ though and it might be foolish to leave him out of the touring party .
I‘m off to find a hard hat.
Well I'm with you billy fish, I've always rated Biggar and you know what I think about Russell - nice to hear it from someone so many degrees south as well :)

The thing is though that thus far Gatland as Lions coach has never shown any liking for a Russell style 10, I don't think he has the guts if I'm honest and I'm not even sure how hard Townsend would or could push. A little perhaps, but enough? I'm not sure.

The Lions is a funny sort of a side in a way. It always seems to be a very traditional 10 man side by design - which I suppose history tells us is (if you have the personnel) the most reliable way to win a tough tour, it's the simple formula least likely to go wrong. If it were me I'd play a loose style somewhere between Fijian 7s and the Barbarians (which would solve the kicking problem Handel) It might not be any more successful but by god it would be fun;)
 
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salarchaser

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Welsh Rugby Union | Wales & Regions | Max Llewellyn (wru.wales)

I've found a Lions Centre who fits the Gattland mould! ....Peterchilton, note where he was born ....salarchaser he went to Glantaf Welsh Medium school so speaks Welsh....I'll get my coat.
Cheers
Aled

ps His father was called Gareth....ring any bells? now i'll get my coat....🧥
Wales on Line bigging him up. Got the physical attributes and the potential.
I'm sure Gats would have had him training with the Welsh squad.
The balance of the squad will be interesting and may be driven by what we havent got rather than what we have.
It seems that 50 letters have been sent out.
A week til we find out.
 

Kype King

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Gats tends to like a 'robust' 10.
Not sure Ford fits that bill. At times England try to hide him defensively. Agree about his ability to get a back line moving and control a game with kicking though. Its his defence that will have him playing catch up.
A 12 who he could shovel $h!t to and a 9 who wouldnt put him in that position and he'd have a chance.
9 is one of our problem positions with no stand out candidate.
You’re right that Ford doesn’t fit that bill but it’s very rare that anyone gets through him - he nearly always holds on enough for support to arrive. 9 is a problem I agree - no really stand out candidates putting their hands up.
 

salarchaser

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You’re right that Ford doesn’t fit that bill but it’s very rare that anyone gets through him - he nearly always holds on enough for support to arrive. 9 is a problem I agree - no really stand out candidates putting their hands up.
Lions tours can make or break players.
Rob Andrew wasn't originally on the plane for Aus in 89. Got called up as a replacement. It was the making of him as an international player.
 

Aled

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Well Wales are not going to Argentina this summer, part of me is relieved, without some of our best players we would of really struggled out there!
Cheers
Aled
 

Handel

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Having done an ACL myself I feel for Launchbury and North. At least they can get on and have the op, I had all sorts of complications and had to wait which made recovery that much harder. I do hope we see them both back, two of my favourite players.

Pfeul - as you are watching, what is the position with Russell's release for the Lions?

Scrum halves who can pass? I was brought up on Laidlaw, Catchpole, de Villiers and Edwards who could all pass better than anyone I have seen since and they supposedly were amateurs passing old fashioned rugby balls. It is one of the things that grates now. Youngs has 100 test caps and can't do his number one job properly. Rob Andrew went well in 1989 in part because it was the first time he had played with a decent 9, Rob Jones.

Ian - you are younger than I thought as you don't remember the 1971 Lions, the greatest of them all. And they certainly didn't play 10 man rugby! Trouble was most of the best backs didn't go to SA in 1974 and that side had to play 10 man rugby. Barry John only took up serious goal kicking the season before the 1971 tour.

I watched Biggar beat Leicester at the weekend. Youngs was awful and Ford certainly made to look ordinary by comparison. If anyone has looked at that very interesting analysis of kickers that Ian sent round, Ford appears to score minus three on value added for his goal kicking! But if you are talking about players Gatland doesn't like Biggar is probably top of the list. I have no idea why.
 

Aled

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Scrum halves who can pass? I was brought up on Laidlaw, Catchpole, de Villiers and Edwards who could all pass better than anyone I have seen since and they supposedly were amateurs passing old fashioned rugby balls. It is one of the things that grates now. Youngs has 100 test caps and can't do his number one job properly. Rob Andrew went well in 1989 in part because it was the first time he had played with a decent 9, Rob Jones.
Rob Jones also had a decent tour....for the first time at international level he had a pack of forwards who could deliver good ball and stand up to the opposition forwards. Mike Teague was brilliant in the 2nd and 3rd test.
 

billy fish

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” Iron Mike” , player of the Australian tour .
For me a scrum half’s primary function is to give the fly half as much time and space as possible and that means a good pass . Edwards had it all as a player and a passer , dive spin passes both ways included . He was” amateur “ , so why can’t the professional players with all the time given to skills coaching make a better job of it ?
Robert Jones was a really good passer and gave Rob Andrew time and space. I’ve never rated Youngs as a passer but he can make a telling break and has a reasonable box kick. It can only be this that keeps him in the England side . As for Ford . Goodish player with front foot ball but poor when up against it . He is unable to “dog it out” when the chips are down . There is a clique in England rugby that keeps him in the frame for selection. There is a shortage of good scrum half’s . Murray must be the starter in South Africa if he can keep up his resurgence in form .
What about this for Lions back row. Falatau at 8 , Berne at 6 and Simmonds at 7 . All interchangeable and Tom Curry or Hamish Watson in there if it doesn’t gell .
 

ozzyian

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Might just say something a bit left field here. It's about what you think the Lions are going to face.

Conventional wisdom is that bok packs can get the muscle onto any opposition pack, man for man. Now I'm not actually so sure about that these days, there is plenty of evidence of a more balanced approach but if you think that SA are aiming for the most hellish physical dog fight of all time (what with Lions tradition/history and reputation does it almost demand it?) then I can tell you that the one tiny little reservation I have about Watson is that in the few games that I have watched where he has been reduced to ordinary (from his usual 'fantastic' setting) it has been against a stifling physical opposition back row who weren't there to play a lot of rugby that day - Ireland in this 6N was one such occasion and fair play to them they can go toe to toe with anyone in the back row physicality.

Don't get me wrong I'm a huge fan of Watson - he plays the game the way everybody who loves the game wants to see it played - totally expressive! comprising half titanium and half rubber (as squidge pointed out) but I think Scotlands star of the future is Jaimie Ritchie. I have yet to see that player have a game anything under 'v good' - seriously! his work rate is fantastic and technique/success is consistently influential and to cap it all he manages to keep himself well under the ref radar. I'd take him any day, if only because he should end up being one of the Worlds finest 6s in the next few years. I'd have Watson in the mix as well obvs!! :)
 
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ozzyian

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Ian - you are younger than I thought as you don't remember the 1971 Lions, the greatest of them all. And they certainly didn't play 10 man rugby! Trouble was most of the best backs didn't go to SA in 1974 and that side had to play 10 man rugby. Barry John only took up serious goal kicking the season before the 1971 tour.
Well it was 2006 when I ruptured my ACL one Tues night on the training field thus ending a glittering career in hack grade Sydney suburban rugby;) I was a late developer - but not that late, so maybe a bit younger
 

pfeul

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Pfeul - as you are watching, what is the position with Russell's release for the Lions?

I have not read anything yet in the french newspaper regarding this issue.

That will depend a lot on what happens during the top 14 play off as Racing 92 is ranked 3rd at the moment and will play.
What is sure is that for the French club presidents, the Lions selection is not their affair, and in France apart from the avid rugby fans, many top 14 rugby followers don't even know what the Lions tour is. It is seen here as a bristish affair.
Remember 4 years ago the tension between Halfpenny and Boudjellal at Toulon. It finally went well for the welsh.
But in this regard, unfortunately i am not sure Racing 92 president Lorrenzeti will be much more accomodating.

In my opinion that would be a shame because the Lions needs a different kind of fly half at a substitute. That's a neutral and non affective opinion, but I believe that Biggar is the most complete fly half for starting (liability issues, defense, kicking game, leadership). He ticks all the boxes, which at the moment none of the others do
 
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