Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A non-political interlude

Laban Tall rightly points out that we have been very active yesterday and today talking about the election. As I am also blogging at the General Election Roundup Blog, I thought I'd provide some light relief here. Many of you will have guessed from previous posts I am an avid rugby fan. One of the highlights of my summer will hopefully be a famous Lions victory in New Zealand - although I'm not that optimistic at present. The British Lions are a relic from a past age, but hopefully one which will continue to have meaning into the future, offering the spectacle of attacking but highly competitive rugby.

With the Six Nations having been so open this year, there is much speculation as to who will make the team - especially as Grand Slam winners Wales, on paper, do not possess many of the best players. Whilst trusting fully the judgement of Sir Clive Woodward, I am going to stick my neck out here and predict which players will take the field come the first Test:

15:Gareth Thomas (Wales) - Solid in defence and strong going forward
14:Josh Lewsey (England) - the top English back by some margin
13:Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland) - would walk into any team in the world. Possibly even the best all-time outside centre
12:Stephen Jones (Wales) - I like the idea of a second fly-half if there is no outstanding inside centre, which there isn't. Perhaps the position most devoid of talent in the Isles. Gavin Henson could make it if he loses his arrogance and learned how to pass.
11:Shane Williams (Wales) - has the ability to cut any side in the world apart. If Jason Robinson finds a return to form, however, he'll fit into this slot
10:Ronan O'Gara (Ireland) - if Jonny isn't fit (and he may well not be), it's a toss-up between O'Gara and Stephen Jones. Not much to choose and it would be decided on tour
9:Chris Cusiter (Scotland) - if only because I can't see where another Scot will make the team
1:Gethin Jenkins (Wales) - For all their running rugby, Wales's success was built on a hard-working and tough front eight
2:Mefin Davies (Wales) - As up for grabs as any position on tour. Thompson and Byrne are serious contenders.
3:Julian White (England) - I'm no front row expert, but the pundits all say he should be a lock for the starting XV.
4:Paul O'Connell (Ireland) - although he should still be banned for thuggery, he's the best lock in the Isles at present
5:Ben Kay (England) - consistent in the line-out and a strong contributor in the loose
6:Michael Owen (Wales) - my personal preference is Moody, but he is gaffe-prone. Owen here would mean a shift from number 8, but you need a stuffer at blind-side. Of course, if Richard Hill is fit, there is no question who starts.
7:Martyn Williams (Wales) - the class back-row act of the Six Nations
8:Martin Corry (England) - one of the few consistently high-quality performers on show