By Alan Dymock
THE FIRST weekend of the 2013 RBS 6 Nations was, for lack of a better phrase, a jaw dropper.
We segued from the half-for-half excitement at the Millennium Stadium to the dynamic punch of the Calcutta Cup, before landing in Rome to witness a game that sent shockwaves around world rugby. However, there was also a much-discussed context to the bouts on Saturday. Everyone was opining about who should go on the Lions tour down under, so RW have laid it on the line, until Round 2, obviously. Let us know what you think…
With one shimmy around Jonathan Davies and a keen sleight of hand to disarm the onrushing Alex Cuthbert, ‘Lion’ O’Driscoll showed us for the umpteenth time just how gifted he can be.
The centre, winning his 127th cap, looks to have played at the Millennium for the last time, but there was no time for eulogies as he silenced the critics who claimed he was only now a defensive force, bereft of a cutting edge.
Unburdened by captaincy and free to unlock his full repertoire, he linked, ran and stopped Welshmen in their tracks in a ferocious rearguard action. O’Driscoll was a class above and is now the man almost everyone wants to captain the Lions.
2013 Lion: On the plane, first-class
Prolific early-season form meant most fans wanted the zip of Zebo in the Ireland squad. A hat-trick in the Heineken Cup then meant almost everyone wanted Zebo in the Ireland starting XV. With one audacious bit of footwork and a finishers try on Saturday everyone was calling for the winger to be handed a red jersey, too.
He has the tricks and the pace, but he has also shown he has a brain that can work in fast forward. He’s put his arm up for selection.
2013 Lion: Departure lounge
In the Calcutta Cup, Hogg impressed the masses with his dazzling running. Although he does not have the aerial prowess of a Rob Kearney or a Leigh Halfpenny, he has a siege gun of a boot and an eye for a gap that the scrape-plagued Lewis Hamilton would be envious of.
Although he has not yet proved to be better than his Irish and Welsh counterparts, he certainly has thrilled and surprised. If you do not believe that, take the time to re-watch the try that he created and the try he finished off against England.
2013 Lion: Awaiting taxi to airport
Despite Hogg’s form, the Welsh full-back is still worthy of plaudits thanks to his place kicking and his ability to finish a try, as seen on Saturday.
Others around him may be losing their heads, but the most rounded of the British Isles’ men full-backs goes about his business unfazed. If he keeps his consistency for the whole tournament he will be a nailed-on Lion.
2013 Lion: On the plane
Though just 21, the Saracens’ stand-off is no longer the young pretender and no one would have the temerity to suggest as much whilst he is hitting like a falling mountain and kicks with such accuracy, anyway.
Farrell would never say that he is in a showdown with Jonny Sexton, even if the pair face off this Sunday, but there have been no other Lions challengers so far. As England continue to swell with confidence it may get harder and harder to dislodge the young 10.
2013 Lion: On the plane
It was chopped off on Saturday, but Launchbury wriggled over for a score against Scotland. It was an act that could almost have been expected from the second-row, so fine was his performance on the day.
He has taken to international rugby like a moth to a blowtorch and he can still improve. Dynamic, highly-skilled and a team player, he is the kind of young athlete Warren Gatland will need on the hard grounds Down Under.
2013 Lion: On the planeLike Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.