Warren Gatland’s new-look Lions teaching workforce has an thrilling really feel to it and I applaud the choices he introduced this week.
No disrespect to 1 or two others who had been hotly tipped for roles, however I do just like the freshness of the lads Gats has chosen to work with.
Gregor Townsend brings additional creativity with the concepts and strategies he has applied so properly with Scotland. Glasgow’s success and elegance of play beneath Townsend shouldn’t be forgotten, both.
His inclusion will guarantee these Lions thrill and may have one thing of an X-Issue about them once they meet the world champion Springboks.
The three Welsh coaches Gats has chosen aren’t as excessive profile, however I am delighted for them as properly.
Steve Tandy has labored wonders with Scotland’s defence beneath Townsend and I am certain Gregor may have put in a very good phrase. I labored with Steve rather a lot after I used to coaching referee classes for the Ospreys, in addition to chatting with him earlier than and after video games, in fact.
I’ve at all times rated him as a very good man, a prime coach and somebody deserving of this highest of honours.
Identical applies to Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins, two stalwarts of the Wales set-up for thus a few years beneath Gats. You could not want to meet a pleasant man in rugby than Jenks and who higher to educate the kickers than the grasp from the tee.
I at all times felt Robin was a cornerstone of Wales’ success with the work he did with the pack and, like Tandy, he too deserves his maybe surprising likelihood. Robin does not search the limelight, simply will get on together with his job within the background and for me he did it exceptionally properly with Wales.
Gats and Shaun Edwards might have grabbed the headlines, however they, maybe greater than anybody, will know precisely what Robin at all times delivered to the occasion.
So, the teaching employees assembled, the subsequent huge name for Gatland can be deciding upon his captain.
The three males whose names have been linked with the job for the perfect a part of two years are Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones. Plus, in fact, Ken Owens, however it will be powerful for him to get chosen in entrance of his nationwide captain, though Ken is a prime class participant and chief in his personal proper.
It has been presumed the England duo had been at all times a bit forward of Alun Wyn within the pecking order, one thing that gained additional in momentum when Wales struggled through the autumn and he then obtained injured.
Many had been questioning whether or not Alun Wyn would even make the Lions tour, some citing his age, not to mention have any likelihood of moving into the Check XV.
I believe just a few of these critics are hiding behind a settee as a result of the Six Nations has modified every part once more.
There can be clamours for different captaincy candidates. That is honest sufficient, everyone seems to be entitled to their opinion, however you are going to must give you a reasonably robust case to argue for somebody forward of Alun Wyn.
I need to emphasise I’ve monumental regard for Farrell and Itoje, who every possess large strengths of their very own.
I’ve refereed Farrell many occasions for England, at all times discovered him to be respectful and a terrific participant who leads by instance in his personal proper.
I anticipate him to be one of many favourites to begin towards South Africa, regardless of England’s poor type within the Six Nations. Maybe Farrell is not assured his place in the best way he would have been a yr in the past, however Gatland is aware of what he can do. And what’s that saying about type being non permanent, class everlasting?
I suppose the identical applies to Itoje, however certainly one of my issues with him being Lions captain simply but is the variety of penalties he provides away. It isn’t a very good look when your captain retains being pinged, jogs my memory of the time I refereed Canada towards Italy within the World Cup and needed to communicate to their captain Tyler Ardron, who used to play for the Ospreys and was rightly extremely regarded down on the Liberty Stadium.
On this group sport the Canadians stored infringing – and sadly I would observed their skipper was the worst offender.
I known as him over to say: “There are too many penalties, communicate to your workforce please – and communicate to your self first since you’re giving most of them away.”
Itoje is a terrific participant and performs on the sting, which is a part of his power, however maybe this tour is one too quickly for the captaincy and he’d be higher suited to the position in Australia in 2025.
The extra I consider it, the extra I really feel the playing cards stack in Alun Wyn’s favour.
Is he assured a spot within the workforce? On the proof of what we noticed within the Six Nations you decide Alun Wyn – and you then construct the remainder of the aspect round him. No debate in any respect about him meriting a beginning spot, so far as I am involved.
Gatland has powerful calls to make, with second row being among the many hardest seeing as Itoje, the wonderful Irish duo of James Ryan and Iain Henderson and Scotland’s Johnny Grey are additionally within the combine. I would not write off Adam Beard both, he was actually good within the Six Nations.
However, even with out contemplating his captaincy credentials, for me Alun Wyn is the primary decide at lock, with Itoje most likely subsequent to him. They’d make a formidable duo, as was the case towards New Zealand in 2017.
Nonetheless, you possibly can’t ignore these management qualities Alun Wyn additionally brings to the desk.
It isn’t nearly 150-odd caps, being a former Lions captain and Wales’ talisman, he instructions the respect of nearly all people in world rugby and is bang in type judging by what we have simply seen.
Different look as much as him and comply with, he is a very good chief contained in the dressing room and the opposition additionally respect him.
Crucially, so do referees as properly. Maybe Alun Wyn was a bit vocal in his early days, however he is discovered rather a lot with expertise and is aware of precisely when to, and how you can, strategy referees.
I’ve spoken to him just a few occasions through the years about this form of factor, when he ought to step in, how you can say issues, however, extra importantly, when he ought to step again and the way to not say issues to a referee.
He possesses a stature, calm method and respectful selection of phrases that we like.
One of the best instance of captaincy got here final trip in New Zealand when Sam Warburton approached Romain Poite proper on the finish, used just a few refined phrases and in doing so a match-winning penalty to the house aspect grew to become a scrum as a substitute.
There’s nothing improper with what Warburton did, he was well mannered and simply requested what he felt had been legitimate and pertinent questions.
Then it was as much as Poite whether or not to stay by his unique choice of a penalty, or change it for unintended offside towards Ken Owens, amid the issues Warburton had raised.
Warburton requested the query and, having weighed every part up, rightly or wrongly Poite opted for a scrum as a substitute of sticking with the penalty, which might have given New Zealand victory with a final minute kick.
Gatland will not have forgotten that. He’ll have regarded it as captaincy at its best when it comes to how you can have interaction with the referee, fairly than looking for confrontation, one thing he has at all times been huge on.
Gats will know Alun Wyn comes from the identical faculty as Warburton, he is labored intently with him down the years – and that is why he’ll be veering in direction of him.
Rightly so too, for my part. This isn’t Welsh bias talking, I simply really feel, every part thought of, present type and circumstances taken under consideration, Alun Wyn Jones is the perfect man for the job.