The latest episode of RugbyPass Offload has seen regular co-hosts Ryan Wilson and guest Mike Phillips agree on the identity of nine players who should be in the Lions XV to play the Springboks following the recent completion of the Guinness Six Nations, but the half-dozen differences in their respective selections are eye-catching – including their feelings about Finn Russell.
Whereas current Scotland back-rower Wilson, who featured off the bench last Friday in Paris following an emergency call-up for the Six Nations back match, has gone for a Lions XV containing a half-dozen Scots with tour captain Alun Wyn Jones losing out to Jonny Gray, ex-Wales and Lions scrum-half Phillips has Jones captaining a Welsh-dominated line-up featuring eight of Wayne Pivac’s title winners and just a single Scot, full-back Stuart Hogg.
Wilson provoked debate when quizzed on whether he was picking Ali Price ahead of Conor Murray at scrum-half just because he is his friend, but the one trend the pair were in agreement on was the lack of England representation, Wilson picking only Mako Vunipola while Phillips included just Anthony Watson and Maro Itoje.
The Lions’ Test series against the Springboks is set to begin on July 24 in Johannesburg and the country by country breakdown of the respective XVs suggested on RugbyPod Offload read Scotland 6, Wales 5, Ireland 3 and England 1 for Wilson while Phillips’ consisted of 8 Wales, 4 Ireland, 2 England and 1 Scotland. Here is how the respective XV announcements unfolded on the latest RugbyPass Offload in the company of host Christina Mahon, starting with Wilson picking his loosehead:
RW: It’s really hard, really hard, I have gone Vunipola, The Sherriff, Ken Owens, because he is class and he still looks like a darts player. He’s like old Gezzy Price. You could see him down the pub playing darts, playing pool and then suddenly…
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 1, 2021
MP: Gerwyn Price has got a better shape than Ken.
RW: You’re right, he has. So right, Vunipola, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong because he has been bloody good, Tadhg Beirne, Jonny Gray slash Alun Wyn Jones. This is bloody hard this bit – 100 per cent I am putting Hamish Watson in a No7 shirt, (Taulupe) Faletau at No8 and I am going (Justin) Tipuric at No6. I know he is not a six but you can put him anywhere across that back row, he is a bloody good lineout option as well for a pretty short guy. Imagine him and Hamish Watson turning over ball against the Saffers? The other thing you have got to think of is this is South Africa. You starting sticking big blokes in there trying to smash them up, it isn’t going to work, you need a little bit of finesse, a bit of pace, jackalers, turnovers. Now let me explain this bit, Finn Russell at No10.
MP: Who’s No9?
RW: Well, that’s the thing, Finn Russell is at No10 so he needs his little side-kick Ali Price with him. Centres, I haven’t got a clue. I don’t really know centres but I have gone (Robbie) Henshaw and Jon Davies, the Fox. They are the questions marks there because the other one is Huw Jones. He is so good in attack and he would do well, plus he had a gap year in South Africa so he would be alright. Louis Rees-Zammit on one wing at 14, Hoggy (Stuart Hogg) at 15 and my other winger to add a little balance, Duhan van der Merwe. I wouldn’t have said it until I saw the nick of him when I was in camp and he is the top try scorer of the Six Nations. He is a powerful bloke so then you have got speed and power.
MP: Gats (Warren Gatland) would love that type of player as well.
RW: So Zammit on one wing, because I’m telling you, Finn Russell putting those crossfields with that fella chasing after them, all day you are scoring tries against the South Africans, and then bring in Duhan van der Merwe off nine, little tucks, smashing them up, using him as a back row basically.
CM: Are you only picking Ali Price because he is your friend?
RW: But why Conor Murray? Everyone is picking Conor Murray, why? That is not going to suit Finn, a bloke that is just going to kick the nuts off the ball. Nah, that is not going to suit Finn Russell. You have got to think of Finn Russell here, you have to think what does he want? He wants someone who is going to give him the ball early, quick, speed of ball. Right, Mike, you’re up mate.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 1, 2021
MP: I have gone Wyn Jones.
RW: Mate, you can’t just name the whole Welsh squad.
MP: Ken Owens, Furlong, Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones and then Tadhg Beirne at six with Tipuric and Faletau and that’s the starting Test pack. Myself at 9, obviously. No, I thought Tomos Williams, I still think he will be going, he will be pushing. I like him but I have put Murray in there. He came on my podcast a few weeks ago…
RW: You’re going to name Finn Russell, aren’t ya?
MP: It was close. It’s (Dan) Biggar. I have got Zammit and then Henshaw, Jonathan Davies, Watson and Hogg. I put Hogg because I haven’t got a Scotsman in.
RW: What? You tosser.
MP: But on the bench, I have got van der Merwe, Finn Russell… the bench is full of Scots.
RYAN WILSON’S LIONS TEST XV
15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Duhan van der Merwe; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Tadhg Beirne, 5. Jonny Gray/Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Justin Tipuric, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Taulupe Faletau.
MIKE PHILLIPS’ LIONS TEST XV
15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Louis Rees-Zammit; 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Tadhg Beirne, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Taulupe Faletau.
Andy Goode finds room for just 1 England player in his Lions XV while his old @TheRugbyPod mucker Jim Hamilton voices jolting opinions regarding Owen Farrell and Alun Wyn Jones #LionsRugby
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 30, 2021
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