After previously looking at who would be in the starting XV for the Lions tour, who else makes the rest of squad cut, and who crucially gets on the bench?
(16). Loosehead Prop replacement – JACK MCGRATH
An excellent youngster who is quick on his feet for a prop, but also puts in a huge shift in defence. 90% tackle success rate over the summer is what you want in a prop forward against a side in NZ who will relentlessly attack you. He also isn’t afraid to carry the ball making 52 metres with ball in hand against a tough South African side. Depending on coach chosen , he should start.
(17). Hooker replacement – KEN OWENS
A fast, agile hooker who is dubbed the ”northern hemisphere version of Dan Coles” due to his running ability and style. 37 carries and four defenders beaten just shows what he is capable of against arguably the best defence in the world right now. Crucially however in his main role of defence as a front row forward he has over 84% tackle success and only conceded a turnover twice in five games. The man full of passion who has taken a real forward step since he took over from Baldwin this summer.
(18). Tighthead Prop replacement – DAN COLE
A legend at Leicester and one of the best scrummagers in the world. Such a strong binder, he holds such a good position at the scrum to drive the opposition backwards, as he did with Wales and Australia over the summer. 89% tackle rate also shows how good he is at defending around the park with his attacking skills not lacking either with one defender beaten and one offload added into his games against Australia.
(19). Second row replacement – IAIN HENDERSON
An all round player who has a strong set piece play with five catches and a steal in lineouts over the summer whilst also having the around the pitch game. He is comfortable to run around the pitch and add, what is effectively, an extra back row option for his side. As shown by 42 carries, one try, four defenders beaten and an offload. This is the match play that the team needs on the Lions tour, to really push NZ to their limits.
(20). Back row replacement – CHRIS ROBSHAW
Perhaps underrated with England due to the plaudits his other back row mates have taken, and his captaincy loss. However his stats do not lie in his efforts being huge to England’s unbeaten summer. 56m made, three offloads and nine lineouts steals, prove his threat going forward, as well as being solid at scrum time and over the ball. When it comes to his main job, defending, he is also top notch registering 92% tackle success and very few turnovers conceded.
(21). Half back/centre replacement – OWEN FARRELL
Superb at fly half, but can cover centre as well. A real gem to have in your side as a utility player. Scoring 76 points over the summer, and having a kicking rate of 87% he is a player that can keep the scoreboard ticking over from up to 45m out with penalties. Handy against a side like NZ who don’t leak tries. 53 passes, five offloads and two defenders beaten show his threat going forward, although if he does end up starting a test or playing a significant amount of time he will need to tighten his defence up with only 75% tackle rate.
(22). Centre Replacement – JAMIE ROBERTS
The 18st, 6ft 4′ centre has been better this summer gone, providing better running angles and less of ”Warrenball”. This hasn’t altered results for Wales, but he has seen his own game grow slightly better. 216m made, five defenders beaten and five clean breaks shows he can create attacking phases if used correctly, and with such a large frame, tackles come in thick and fast, at 76.3% he is higher than the other centres in contention, but needs to get that rate up three or four percent to have a chance of starting at all.
(23.) Back Line replacement – MIKE BROWN
Came under scrutiny as to why he was being played over the Premiership player of the year in Alex Goode from most, but has shown what he can do. The old saying of stats don’t lie is true in Brown’s case as many didn’t think he did a good job over the summer, however 84% tackle rate and 380m made with the ball in hand proves he was and is a stalwart in attack and defence. 20 defenders beaten just shows what he can do if he gets a chance to run with the ball and with one try and an assist he hasn’t got a problem in finishing either. Just the form player needed for the Lions tour.
It is fair to say that many positions are under competition from a lot of players. The rest of the 42 man Lions tour squad comprises of Rob Evans, Samson Lee, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Rory Best, George Kruis, Luke Charteris, Peter O’Mahoney, CJ Stander, Talaupe Faletau, Conor Murray, Paddy Jackson, Jack Nowell, Dave Kearney, Sean Lamont, Jonathan Davies, Keith Earls, Elliot Daly and Alex Goode.
The overall nationality breakdown of the Lions tour squad follows as 17 English, 12 Welsh, three Scottish and nine Irish.
It is fair to say many of these players will move to the bench or starting XV, with some missing out totally, but going on this past summers international tests these are the players that on merit should be chosen.