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Lions Forwards Selection Has Caused a Few Raised Eyebrows

01/05/2013 13:26 BST | Updated 30/06/2013 10:12 BST
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Warren Gatland's choice of backs for the British & Irish Lions Tour might have caused some debate but not a lot of raised eyebrows. The same cannot be said for the make-up of the forwards.

Let's start with the backrow. The most obvious talking points are the fact that both Kelly Brown and Chris Robshaw have been missed on the final squad. Now many will be surprised by Robshaw missing out but while he has been in good form he quite simply isn't good enough to get in the touring squad.

He's not even the best 7 in England. Matt Kvesic and Will Fraser are much better genuine openside flankers than Robshaw who is more of a 6.5. He wouldn't even be the best 6 or 8 in England with the likes of Tom Croft, Tom Wood, Ben Morgan and Billy Vunipola all ahead of him.

If there is one English backrower who can feel hard done by then it's Tom Wood. The Northampton Saints flanker has been England's outstanding loose forward this season and has shown his ability to play across the backrow.

Kelly Brown on the other hand is probably ruing the moment Dan Lydiate stepped back out onto the pitch for the Newport-Gwent Dragons. Once that happened it would have taken another serious injury to Lydiate for Brown to get in the squad.

Brown is a proven international who has more than held his own against the best in the world and was outstanding for Scotland during the Six Nations but as a very similar player to Lydiate there was no way Gatland was going to leave out the class and lineout skills of Tom Croft and the powerful carrying of Sean O'Brien.

Jamie Heaslip has been helped firstly by injury to Ben Morgan who's devastating ball carrying would have been a real weapon against the Wallabies. Also since the Six Nations and his return to Leinster, Heaslip seems to have lifted and has looked more like the player of 2009 who was one of the best in the world.

Still the talent and form of Johnnie Beattie would have been hard to dispute this season with the Scottish number eight benefiting from his move to Montpellier.

The second row has gone pretty much as expected, Richie Gray has been saved after a season of injury and indifferent form with Gatland trusting in his world-class ability and Paul O'Connell's inspirational form since his return from injury has warranted a place.

Geoff Parling might surprise people but he has deserved his chance after a great year in an English jersey and will definitely push for a starting spot in the test series with his ability in the lineout up there with the best in the world. He was also one of the few English players to stand up and be counted during their Six Nations defeat to Wales.

Now for the front row....

Dylan Hartley is going to be a British & Irish Lion... I think it would be safe to say that I'm not a fan of this selection. For me he has never brought his club form to the international stage and he is a walking yellow card.

Quite simply I don't think he's good enough. Rory Best or Ken Owens would have been much better choices at hooker with Best's all-round game and leadership and Owens' running ability and lineout skill.

At prop the big selection eyebrow raiser has been the choice of the Saracens duo Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens. With Vunipola's selection I can see what Gatland is going for. There is no doubt that the young prop is a fantastic presence in the loose and along with Cian Healy would add another dynamic carrier in the front row.

His tight game needs a bit of work but he has stood up pretty well on the international stage so far. However Matt Stevens' selection has to cause some debate.

He has been selected for his ability to play across both sides of the scrum which is a great skill to have but with teams now required to have two prop forward replacements, you should be able to cover both sides of the scrum anyway.

Also as a ball carrier he lacks the power and pace of old and Scotland's Ryan Grant would have offered a more aggressive hard-edged carrying game.

So there you have it. My thoughts on the Lions squad. We've now got a month to go till the first match of the tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and you can guarantee that the squad will change in that time.

In the end we all have our views and disagreements on the squad but when that first match starts and the team walks out in the famous red jerseys, we'll still cheer as loud as ever for whoever takes the field.

So now, the wait begins.