Ian Stafford: The Lions Text XV Gatland Would Pick Now - But Please, No More Injuries.

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Ian Stafford: The Lions Text XV Gatland Would Pick Now - But Please, No More Injuries.

Three games gone and three wins for the British & Irish Lions. On the face of it all is good and their stated aim of achieving a 100% record on their tour down under remains intact.

 

The win over the Queensland Reds was particularly pleasing on Saturday because arguably the worst Lions starting XV fielded yet due to head coach Warren Gatland's correct intention to play all 37 of his squad in the first three games faced the stiffest challenge of the tour so far and came through.

 

There is, however, a big but and this is the alarming list of casualties beginning to hit the Lions. Losing both loosehead props, Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins, was bad enough, but to lose winger Tommy Bowe on Saturday as well with a broken hand from the tour is very bad news indeed.

 

Healy may well have started with Jenkins on the bench, although Vunipola has stuck his hand up well as a result. Bowe would have received Gatland's nod over Alex Cuthbert in the test XV as well, or at least he would have done.    

 

At the moment the Lions' strength in depth is just about holding up but they can ill afford to lose many, if any, more first choice test players. The bad news is that there are three more games to go before the first test begins back at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on Saturday week, time for partnerships and moves to be fine-tuned, but also for more players to fall by the wayside.

 

Here, as it stands, is the test XV Warren Gatland will select:

 

Halfpenny, Cuthbert, O'Driscoll, Roberts, North, Sexton, Phillips, Heaslip, Warburton (C), Lydiate, AW Jones, O'Connell, A Jones, Hibbard, Vunipola.

Subs: T Youngs, Corbisiero, Cole, Gray, O'Brien, B Youngs, Farrell, Tuilagi.

 

Unbelievably that means no Croft, Tipuric, Faletau, Jonathan Davies or Hogg. This underlines how deep the quality of the Lions squad still remains but they can ill afford losing another prop, hooker, stand off or winger in particular.

 

The Australians will take note with 3 games to go before the first test. They may not beat the Lions, but they can wound them before the challenge of the Wallabies.

By Ian Stafford