Well has it really been that long? I apologise, my last blog was put out 28th March…oops. Anyway im not here to babble on, well i am but about rugby ha. So today at work i listened to the latest Lions warm-up game against the Highlanders, which they lost sadly…or is it? Yes ok the win would have been better for many reasons including momentum. But the loss tells us plenty more, how much of a massive challenge this tour is going to be for one. So for starters its made Warren Gatlands choice for the 1st test squad that little bit easier, albeit two or three players, but he will surely figure that out in the so-called 4th test against the Maori All Blacks on Saturday. Well the game made my test team easier to pick. The loss shows how high the players have got to lift their performances, make every chance count and be as ruthless as the All Blacks will be, come the 24th of June. These losses, as painful as they are will bring these players closer together, more than any big win. This is a massive plus with all the players coming from four different countries, before hand they only know each other as enemies from the 6 Nations and brief meetings. Some maybe teammates at club level. When the going gets tough it will and has shown Gatland which of his players have the mental strength, to go that extra mile and not crack under the intense pressure they will undoubtedly be under. Looking back at the game, it seemed that the Lions had finally got their attack sorted and they were scoring tries, three at that. But their amazing defence and discipline had somewhat disappeared, both need to reappear before the first test. Going back to that Crusaders game last Saturday…ahhh last Saturday, what a day to be a Rugby fan.
Not only did the Lions go out and beat the best team in the Super Rugby, without conceding a try. England’s young cubs went out to Argentina and beat them in what i can safely say was one of the best games i have seen in a while. Ok the defences werent at the races, but my god the attacking qualities were. There was also plenty of scrum porn for those who love a good scrum, hats of to the uncapped tight-head props (Harry Williams and Will Collier) who fared well, very well against a team who pride themselves on their scrum. Tom Curry…Tom Tom Tom, where to start with that young lad, some international debut he had. At one point England had it seemed no jackals (number 7), now we have two come at once, the other being Sam Underhill. In the build up to this tour he was being touted to shine and be the answer to Englands long-term openside problem. Well if he is as good as we hear – Eddie Jones raved about him before he signed for Bath and was eligible for England – he has got one hell of a battle for that number 7 shirt. I could sit here and go through all the players who shone, but they all played so well, top picks were George Ford, Nathan Hughes, Henry Slade, Mark Wilson and Joe Launchbury (how he’s not on the Lions tour is beyond me). Not forgetting Denny Solomona, way to atone for his two previous mistakes, with a wonder try. Seeing these youngsters and the way they played and also didn’t fold when they went behind makes me so excited about the future of English Rugby. To top it off the u20 side got through to another JWC final.
Two quick notes to end on. I know its late but well done Exeter on winning the Prem final. Its pretty much when and not if Rob Baxter will be England head coach, the job he has done at Exeter is unreal and they fully deserved it. Now back to the Lions, assessing these four warm-up games, looking towards the three tests im left with my head saying a New Zealand series white wash, but my heart saying a Lions series win. If it was my job to predict an outcome then obviously go with my head, but its not…so LIONS, LIONS, LIONS, LIONS.