SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Warren Gatland’s Lions selection feels a little conservative… while World Rugby’s investigation into Rassie Erasmus’ rant has come too late – his intimidating presence as bogus water boy is the bigger issue
- Warren Gatland never avoids tough calls but his selection feels conservative
- Picking Finn Russell at fly-half over Dan Biggar would be a real statement
- Elsewhere, World Rugby has acted too late in investigating Rassie Erasmus’ rant
- A far bigger issue is the director of rugby’s presence on pitch as bogus water boy
Warren Gatland can often surprise with his team selections and he never avoids tough calls.
But this team feels a little conservative to me although, as ever, it comes down to how they play on the day, not how it looks on paper.
On one hand, it is quite a brave selection — how many coaches would leave Stuart Hogg, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson and Taulupe Faletau sitting in the stands in their suits, surplus to requirements?
Warren Gatland never avoids tough calls but his selection for the final test feels conservative
Dan Biggar (pictured) remains at fly-half but picking Finn Russell would have made a statement
But I was hoping for a statement at fly-half in the form of Finn Russell or even Marcus Smith.
But it’s Dan Biggar again, this time reunited with Ali Price at scrum-half.
Unless Price can rediscover his fast-breaking game, I’m not seeing how this combination poses the threat or point of difference the Lions have been lacking so far.
Liam Williams and Josh Adams — in for Hogg and Watson — were always going to feature after last week’s defeat but I was not expecting Duhan van der Merwe to keep his place.
Bundee Aki enjoyed a strong game alongside Robbie Henshaw in the opening clash of the tour against Japan and that seemed a clue as to how Gatland saw the midfield.
Ali Price must rediscover his fast-breaking game for the Lions to pose a real threat this time
He then turned to Elliot Daly followed by Chris Harris.
There is no consistency in the selection but perhaps this is the combo to work.
Up front, it’s a case of those selected somehow finding a way to execute significantly better than in the second Test.
In the spirit of going for broke, I would have started Tadhg Beirne at blindside flanker, the Irishman has been unlucky on this tour not to bag a starting spot.
Gatland has gone with Courtney Lawes who was brilliant in the first Test, but only workmanlike in the second.
I can only think that Gatland has correctly anticipated the selection of Boks lock Lood de Jager and lineout ace Franco Mostert at blindside for the Boks.
Courtney Lawes starts again after a brilliant first test but workmanlike display in the second
And at No 8, although my first instinct was to go with Faletau, after mulling over it for a few days I would have chosen Sam Simmonds.
The Lions must play at pace and get over the gainline as often as possible and there is nobody better than Simmonds at that.
Meanwhile, it was depressing to see World Rugby belatedly announce an independent investigation into Rassie Erasmus’s long rant last week.
The investigation into Rassie Erasmus is too late… and his presence on pitch is a bigger worry
Too late. It was last week’s story not this week’s but also it is the wrong offence.
World Rugby need to be looking at his intimidating physical presence on the pitch as a bogus water boy at the same time as those he has been calling out are making key decisions.
He has been doing it since the South Africa A game three weeks ago and that is when World Rugby should have stepped in with decisive action.
The day after it should either have been a red card — stay in the stands — or, in the bizarre event of World Rugby thinking it is OK, they should have cleared him.
It is ridiculous for World Rugby to equate Gatland’s justified reaction to their own glaring incompetence in not having a neutral back-up TMO.