Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Lion Kings and Paupers from Twickenham Showdown

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Lion Kings and Paupers from Twickenham Showdown

Article excerpt

Byline: David Flatman

ISPOKE to Warren Gatland recently and asked him most of the childishbut-actually-interesting questions I could think to ask a British and Irish Lions head coach. Apart from his favourite books and movies, I 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. …

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