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Lions Will Need More Than Power For Series Victory

30/04/2013 11:06 BST | Updated 28/06/2013 10:12 BST
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On Tuesday Warren Gatland will be announcing his full squad for the British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia this summer and there are a few predictions I think we can safely make.

We can all but guarantee that Wales will dominate the make-up of the squad. Best team in the Northern Hemisphere for the last two years and could you imagine Warren Gatland going back to Wales in the Autumn having left most of them on tour to Japan?

England won't have as big a representation as they would expect. This is not a slight on the team as a whole or Stuart Lancaster but there is a feeling that this England team are a good side with a great collective will but they lack stand out individual players (unlike a certain England team ten years ago).

Reputation will play a key in role in tight selections and therefore form goes out of the window. If there is a selection issue say between Kelly Brown and Dan Lydiate then the Chopper will get the nod (denying the Lions the joy of Brown's singing voice).

Dan Lydiate is a world-class player and was an absolute monster for Wales during their 2012 Grand Slam campaign but it would be hard to argue against Kelly Brown's form this season even when he has been playing out of position.

The recurring theme running through the Lions squad will be power and power allied to even more power. Gatland likes his teams to be powerful across the pitch and he clearly favours that as a start point in attack.

However you won't just beat the Australians with a power game or else Wales wouldn't be on a nine match losing run against them under Gatland's leadership.

It said a lot that the most creative player in that Welsh team during the Six Nations was probably Justin Tipuric in the backrow. There is power and pace in that Welsh backline but not a lot of stardust.

Without somebody more creative in that Lions backline selection, a lot of the pressure will fall to Jonathan Sexton and he is rarely the same player when he's wearing something other than the blue of Leinster.

Right now the prospective Lions centres will likely be Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Brad Barritt, Brian O'Driscoll and Manu Tuilagi. Again lots of power but with the possible exception of BOD (who I think will go cause of a lack of other options at 13) there's not a whole lot different with those choices.

Someone like James Hook brings something extra in midfield for the Lions. Much like Jonny Wikinson at Toulon, Hook has been in good form for Perpignan this season and has added a layer of pragmatism to his mercurial talents.

Hook has the passing game, the boot and the running ability to cause the opposition any number of problems and his ability to play across the backline would give the Lions coaching staff a useful utility option.

Also with Perpignan unlikely to be involved very late in the Top 14 season his availability shouldn't be a problem for Gatland

Billy Twelvetrees from England falls into a very similar bracket to Hook. Not only a powerful ball carrier but he is a fine passer of the ball off both hands and has a big boot to go with it.

If the Lions find that simply using Tuilagi and Roberts to crash forward is not enough to unlock the Wallaby defence then having a Hook or Twelvetrees on the bench could work as a useful alternative.

Even in the back three power is the likely preference. Alex Cuthbert and George North are immense physical threats and rapid but you could argue they aren't the most creative though then again when you're six foot five and sixteen stone you don't necessarily have to be.

However the likes of Tommy Bowe (again reputation can play its part) and Sean Maitland not only bring pace, power and try scoring ability but creativity with ball in hand as well. Bowe has the passing and soft hands that wouldn't be out of place at 13 and Maitland's ability to ride the tackle and offload was shown during Scotland's win over Italy.

There will be times where a bit of magic is needed to change the game and maybe the outcome of a series. In 2001 the Lions had that magic and were forty minutes away from taking the series but were undone by a combination of injury, Australian class and Nathan Grey's elbow.

If Warren Gatland and the class of 2013 hope to go one better they'll need to bring something else to the table and just maybe the likes of James Hook and Tommy Bowe offer that.

My Lions Squad:

Backs:

Leigh Halfpenny (Wal), Stuart Hogg, (Sco), George North (Wal), Alex Cuthbert (Wal), Tommy Bowe (Ire), Sean Maitland (Sco).

Brian O'Driscoll (Ire), Manu Tuilagi (Wal), Jamie Roberts (Wal), Billy Twelvetrees (Eng), Jonathan Davies (Wal).

James Hook (Wal), Jonathan Sexton (Ire).

Mike Phillips (Wal), Ben Youngs (Eng), Greig Laidlaw (Sco).

Forwards:

Toby Faletau (Wal), Ben Morgan (Eng), Tom Croft (Eng), Sam Warburton (Wal), Justin Tipuric (Wal), Sean O'Brien (Ire), Dan Lydiate (Wal).

Paul O'Connell (Ire), Alun Wyn Jones (Wal), Geoff Parling (Eng), Richie Gray (Sco), Joe Launcbury (Eng).

Rory Best (Ire), Richard Hibbard (Wal), Tom Youngs (Eng).

Adam Jones (Wal), Dan Cole (Eng), Gethin Jenkins (Wal), Euan Murray (Sco), Cian Healy (Ire), Ryan Grant (Sco).