The 2013 British and Irish Lions squad to tour Australia this year is due to be announced tomorrow, Tuesday 30 April. The squad of 36 or 37 players will stop off in Hong Kong en route to Australia where they will kick start their tour with a game against the Barbarians on Saturday 1 June.
The tour will then go on to Australia where the Lions will play a further 9 games, including three Tests against the Wallabies of Australia. The final tour game will be the 3rd Test at the ANZ Stadium on Saturday 6 July.
There has been much speculation in various quarters for quite a while now about the make-up of the squad, with the talk often focussing on how many players each country will have in the squad. There has also been increasing speculation about whether Jonny Wilkinson, who has been in commanding form for French club Toulon, but announced his retirement from international rugby back in December 2011, will make the squad.
Eddie Butler’s Predicted Squad
Eddie Butler represented, and captained Wales as an eighthman in the early 1980′s. He was also selected for the Barbarians and British Lions. Butler is now a commentator with the national broadcaster in the UK and a journalist, contributing material to The Observer and The Guardian. Writing in The Observer on Saturday, Butler ‘chose’ a squad of 37 players for the tour. Interestingly enough it did not have Jonny Wilkinson in it but included Sean Maitland as what he terms his ‘bolter’ for the squad, with Welsh hooker Ken Owens another of his ‘bolters’.
There also seems to be far fewer England players than one would expect considering England dominated this year’s Six Nations until they spectacularly came unstuck in the decider against Wales in their final match.
Butler’s Squad as follows:
Full-backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg
Wings: George North, Sean Maitland, Tim Visser, Alex Cuthbert, Simon Zebo
Centres: Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Manu Tuilagi.
Fly-halfs: Jonathan Sexton, Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell
Scrum-halfs: Mike Phillips, Ben Youngs, Lloyd Williams
Props: Gethin Jenkins, Mako Vunipola, Cian Healy, Adam Jones, Dan Cole, Paul James
Hookers: Ken Owens, Richard Hibbard, Rory Best
Second-rows: Joe Launchbury, Paul O’Connell, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Donnacha Ryan
Flankers: Chris Robshaw, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (capt), Sean O’Brien
No8s: Toby Faletau, Johnnie Beattie
Australian Rugby Union’s Predicted Squad
Today the Scottish Rugby Union published, via their social media outlet, what they claim to be a predicted squad put together by Australian Rugby.
The squad shows some differences from Eddie Butler’s, especially at half back and amongst the forwards, and one feels that it may well turn out to be closer to the mark. Perhaps they have a better perspective with the advantage of being a bit further removed, both physically and emotionally, from the selection of the squad than Butler may be. However, they do agree on the captain being Wales’ Sam Warburton.
Notably, the squad has fewer Welsh players in it and more English ones, although one feels that it may have more players from Scotland than will eventually get the nod in the initial squad to tour. It is also surprising to note the ‘omission’ of a player who should be a certainty, namely England captain Chris Robshaw. It will be interesting to see which of the two squads is nearer to that which will be announced tomorrow.
‘ARU’s Squad’ as follows:
Full-backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg, Rob Kearney
Wings: George North, Tim Visser, Alex Cuthbert
Centres: Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Manu Tuilagi.
Fly-halfs: Jonathan Sexton, Jonny Wilkinson, Owen Farrell
Scrum-halfs: Mike Phillips, Ben Youngs, Greig Laidlaw
Props: Gethin Jenkins, Mako Vunipola, Cian Healy, Adam Jones, Dan Cole, Euan Murray
Hookers: Tom Youngs, Richard Hibbard, Rory Best
Second-rows: Joe Launchbury, Paul O’Connell, Alun Wyn Jones, Geoff Parling, Donnacha Ryan
Loose forwards: Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (capt), Sean O’Brien, Kelly Brown, Tom Wood, Toby Faletau, Jamie Heaslip
Robert Kitson’s Possible Squad
It may be even more interesting to compare the squads with one that Eddie Butler’s compatriot at The Guardian, Robert Kitson, speculated with way back in March 2012 following the completion of that year’s Six Nations tournament. Kitson predicted a 37 man squad and also provided who he thought may be on a standby list for the tour.
The 37 man squad consists of 14 players who play for Wales, 12 Ireland players, 7 England players and 4 Scotland players. Interesting as well was Kitson’s strong conviction at that stage that Warren Gatland would be named head coach. Obviously injury has taken its toll on some of the players who will no longer be contenders, while the form of some of the chosen players has dipped and others not mentioned have since put their hands up for selection.
Players whose form is arguably not at the same level as last year include the likes of England’s Courtney Lawes and fellow second rower Scotland’s Richie Gray, while unfortunately it would also seem as if Gray’s Scotland team mate, and last year’s captain, Ross Ford has also slipped down the pecking order at hooker.
On the other side we have seen the continued development of Stuart Hogg to the point of him being on many punters short list of making the squad whereas Kitson had him down as a possible standby player. Another player who may make the cut is Sean Maitland, but at the time Kitson predicted his squad there was no talk of Maitland making his way over to Glasgow and making his debut for Scotland this season, let alone him being a Lions contender.
England scrumhalf Ben Youngs seemed destined for great things but at this time last year he appeared to be going through a bit of a slump in form, possibly partly due to injury. However, this year has seen a fit again Youngs show us again what he is capable of and surely he will be one of the scrumhalves going on tour. Finally, it would have been very hard for Kitson to speculate back then that Jonny Wilkinson may even be in contention.
Robert Kitson’s squad (March 2012) as follows:
Full-backs: Ben Foden (England), Rob Kearney (Ireland)
Wings: Chris Ashton (England), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), George North (Wales), Tim Visser (Scotland)
Centres: Owen Farrell (England), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Keith Earls (Ireland), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Fly-halves: Rhys Priestland (Wales), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Scrum-halves: Lee Dickson (England), Greig Laidlaw (Scotland), Mike Phillips (Wales)
Props: Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Cian Healy (Ireland), Adam Jones (Wales), Dan Cole (England), Alex Corbisiero (England)
Hookers: Rory Best (Ireland), Ross Ford (Scotland), Matthew Rees (Wales)
Locks: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O’Connell (Ireland, capt), Richie Gray (Scotland), Bradley Davies (Wales), Donnacha Ryan (Ireland)
Flankers: Stephen Ferris (Ireland), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Sam Warburton (Wales), Tom Croft (England)
No 8: Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Toby Faletau (Wales)
On standby: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Andrew Trimble (Ireland), Manu Tuilagi (England), Scott Williams (Wales), Brad Barritt (England), Ben Youngs (England), Dylan Hartley (England), Mike Ross (Ireland), Geoff Parling (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Tom Wood (England), Ross Rennie (Scotland), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), Ben Morgan (England).
Saturday 1 June: Lions v Barbarians – Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong. Kick-off: 12:30 BST (19:30 local)
Wednesday 5 June: Lions v Western Force – Paterson Stadium, Perth. Kick-off: 11:00 BST (18:00 local)
Saturday 8 June: Lions v Queensland Reds – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Kick-off: 10:30 BST (19:30 local)
Tuesday 11 June: Lions v Combined Queensland-NSW Country – Hunter Stadium, Newcastle. Kick-off: 10:30 BST (19:30 local)
Saturday 15 June: Lions v New South Wales Waratahs – Allianz Stadium, Sydney. Kick-off: 10:30 BST (19:30 local)
Tuesday 18 June: Lions v ACT Brumbies – Canberra Stadium, Canberra. Kick-off: 10:30 BST (19:30 local)
Saturday 22 June: First Test: Lions v Australia – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Kick-off: 11:00 BST (20:00 local)
Tuesday 25 June: Lions v Melbourne Rebels – AAMI Park, Melbourne. Kick-off: 10:30 BST (19:30 local)
Saturday 29 June: Second Test: Lions v Australia – Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Kick-off: 11:00 BST (20:00 local)
Saturday 6 July: Third Test: Lions v Australia – ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Kick-off: 11:00 BST (20:00 local)