The stars could line up for Danny Care to become a lion at the end of his career. He should be picked to tour South Africa now that Ben Youngs has ruled himself out.
First of all, it is only right to greet Youngs for putting his family first, as he did in 2017. Of course the England scrum half would want the honor of joining the rest of Britain and Ireland’s best. in South Africa, but with another kid on the way, he decided some things are more important.
When news broke on MailOnline that Youngs had decided not to make himself available – after being informed by letter that he was in the fray – sparked a feverish debate over the Lions coaches’ scrum half-roster conundrum.
Ben Youngs’ withdrawal from the Lions roster has opened the door for Danny Care
Youngs spoke to MailOnline about the decision to put family above rugby this summer
It was also the most notable development over a weekend of final auditions before the 36-man squad is announced on Thursday.
Care deserves to be chosen as someone in top form, which cannot be said about all the men who will make the cut – with different sets to be shot by reputation.
The 34-year-old has played 84 Tests, so he’s no untried bolter. He has tremendous experience and will not be surprised in such lofty company.
The fact that he has long been out of favor with English coach Eddie Jones should not deter Gatland and he may enjoy the opportunity to prove that Care can still thrive at an international level. He has been fantastic for Quins and a notable aspect of his performance is the improved game management combined with a smart kicking game.
Care provides both control and attacking pace.
Care has proven its quality at Harlequins – but he’s currently out of favor with England
Conor Murray is the standout No. 9, as Gareth Davies and Care were able to contest a spot on the plane
Finn Russell would be an exciting choice for Johnny Sexton, but could be considered too risky
Conor Murray is destined to wear the lion’s number 9 shirt against South Africa in the Test series. There are likely two other scrum halves under 36 and Scotland’s Ali Price was erratic during the Six Nations, so Care could take on Gareth Davies to judge Murray.
MY LIONS SQUAD
Back three: J Adams (Wal), S Hogg (Sco), J Nowell (Eng), L Rees-Zammit (Wal), A Watson (England), L Williams (Wal).
Centers: J Davies (Wal), O Farrell (Eng), R Henshaw (Ire), G Ringrose (Ire), M Tuilagi (Eng).
Half-backs: D Biggar (Wal), D Care (Eng), G Davies (Wal), C Murray (Ire), F Russell (Sco).
Props: T Furlong (Ire), W Jones (Wales), J Marler (Eng), A Porter (Ire), K Sinckler (Eng), R Sutherland (Sco).
Whores: L Cowan-Dickie (Eng), J George (Eng), K Owens (Wal).
Locks: J Gray (Sco), I Henderson (Ire), M Itoje (Eng), AW Jones (Wal, Captain).
Back row: T Beirne (Ire), T Curry (Eng), T Faletau (Wal), S Simmonds (Eng), J Tipuric (Wal), S Underhill (Eng), H Watson (Sco).
This column is about a wish list, not predicting what Gatland and Co will actually do.
So let Finn Russell take a playmaker for Johnny Sexton, as the Irish icon is struggling to keep fit these days and would be mercilessly targeted by South African provincial parties ahead of the Test series.
Russell could offer Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell another dimension, but the coaches may consider him too much of a risk.
The anticipated confirmation of Alun Wyn Jones as tour captain makes sense. The imperious Welshman remains able to dictate terms on the greatest of occasions.
Maro Itoje is the only viable alternative, but England took a lineout from him during the Six Nations to help him focus on dominating as a player and that’s what he should be doing for the Lions.
George North’s brutal setback could have a major impact on the selection of Gatland’s backs, as he lost a figure capable of operating wide or midfield. His absence should justify the risk of taking on Manu Tuilagi to add profitable clout despite the fact that the Sale center in England has been down since September last year.
This column’s favorite team includes Joe Marler, even though he is highly unlikely to be picked after he retired from England’s Six Nations campaign and apparently failed to impress Gatland on the latest Lions tour.
Alun Wyn Jones must be trusted for Maro Itoje as captain on the tour of South Africa
George North’s brutal injury should mean center Manu Tuilagi gets a chance to shine
Sam Simmonds is a vital cog in the Exeter Chiefs team and would excel against the Springboks
And Exeter No. 8 Sam Simmonds really should score as a whimsical, turbo-charged talent who could run amok on the dry surfaces of South Africa.
Bath’s lack of calmness in the “red zone” is failing them
No wonder Bath was so despondent after failing to overcome opponents who seemed to be there for the taking. They did not score a point in the last 52 minutes of their semi-final in the Challenge Cup against Montpellier on Saturday evening. So much pressure was wasted.
Bath lost 19-10 to Montpellier and missed the chance of a first European final in seven years
Stuart Hooper’s squad spent 29 percent of the game in Montpellier’s 22, but couldn’t make it count. What they needed was more composure, creativity and precision in the ‘red zone’ and they will soon have just the man to provide it. Danny Cipriani will carry the baton next season and if Bath can put him within range of the opposition line, he will win those big games for them.
Freddie Steward. Leicester’s rookie fullback is having a breakout season and looking real. He was imperious in the air and threatened as a runner in the Tigers’ victory over Ulster.
Spectators were not allowed at Stade Marcel-Deflandre yesterday, but La Rochelle fans created a carnival outside and greeted their team with flairs, flags, drums and chants. Glorious.
It could have been written that an all-French Champions Cup semi-final would turn into an arm wrestling and that Antoine Dupont’s genius would help Toulouse beat Bordeaux.
Antoine Dupont turned the style back on when Toulouse defeated Bordeaux in the Champions Cup
Anglo-Saxon referees should try to speak at least some French. Wayne Barnes communicated well with Toulouse and Bordeaux, but Matthew Carley taught La Rochelle in English.
It has been 24 years since French clubs won both European titles in the same season. That’s at stake, but Leicester can stop Montpellier’s recent resurgence leading to the Challenge Cup success.
Floodlight failure saga would not happen to the men
The failure of the spotlight curtailed the women’s test between France and England in Lille on Friday evening, which was an embarrassing episode for the host country. These are the two completely professional sides of Europe, but their efforts have been undermined by an amateur logistics problem.
England narrowly led France 17-15 in Lille before losing the spotlight paid off
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the English Captain Sarah Hunter. “Maybe training with your club, but never in an international match.” It wouldn’t happen to the men, so it shouldn’t happen to the women. Matches may only be assigned to locations suitable for the occasion.
The last word
The soul of Rugby is being sold at an alarming rate. While CVC is accumulating stakes in leagues, unions and tournaments in this part of the world, Southern Hemisphere officials are also turning to private equity firms to avoid a financial meltdown.
New Zealand’s provincial unions voted unanimously last week in favor of a deal with the California-based Silver Lake group, backed by massive pension funds. While the Kiwi players’ union has yet to provide the necessary sign-offs, it is certainly a matter of time.
Australia’s leading executives met with their trans-Tasman counterparts to discuss the implications of such a deal, before selling off some of their commercial operations to keep afloat.
Rugby Australia chief Hamish McLennan turns to private equity to avoid financial ruin
Hamish McLennan, Chairman of Rugby Australia, said: “I regret that we have to do it, but I am not afraid of it.”
The authorities of the game have been cornered as the pandemic has exacerbated financial turmoil, but they must realize that the motivation for these investors is huge profits.
This isn’t about enriching rugby, it’s about enriching shareholders. Don’t be surprised if it all ends in tears.