Following on from yesterday’s post, I look at the Irish forwards who form part of the British and Irish Lions bulwark. With none bar one featuring in the final test, I take an outsiders view and have a guess at who gave it all and those who will feel it could have been oh so different. Blighted by the bojangles and injury there tour has been one of highs and lows.
The Irish forwards contingent consists of:
- Cian Healy
- Tom Court
- Rory Best
- Paul O’Connell
- Sean O’Brien
- Jamie Heaslip
Cian Healy: Thanks to an ankle ligament injury against the Western Farce in the 69-17 drubbing, Healy’s tour was over before it began. Brett Sheahans claim that Healy bit him was an irritation and won’t be remembered. While no one knows what the tour would have brung, if fit he would have been a test starter. His absence has been further highlighted by the ‘revelation’ that Vunipola and Corbisiero are not at his level and simply cannot last the pace over 80 minutes. They are solid, possibly good players but Healy is a great player. He will look back with regret but he will don the red again.
Tom Court: Went on holidays and got a free Lions jersey. Didn’t feature long enough to be rated. Fair play though, in fairness, I hope he enjoyed the experience.
Rory Best: Rory, Rory, poor auld Rory. As an honest as the day is long, the Ulster Captain will rue being handed the Lions Captaincy against the Brumbies. No one covered themselves in glory but he suffered more than most. While a certain amount of redemption was found in the battering that was the Rebels game, a great performance was capped by a try, but it was plain for all to see that the first test slot was beyond him. Best isn’t the first Hooker to get the ‘yips’ and Youngs and Hibbard aren’t exactly world beaters but his failings were simply more glaring. I would argue that Best deserved his place on the Tour and not because Hartley was banned but on his own merits as a player and a leader, however he will look back at what surely is an opportunity missed to play in the Test series. At 30 there is a slight chance he may have another Tour in him but with Richardt Strauss breathing down his neck at international level it seems unlikely.
Paul O’Connell: I don’t have to salivate over the talismanic second row because every sports hack in the North and South already has, and far more eloquently then I ever could. Watch the new Pinergy TV ad and the mixed look of awe and terror on the young couples face. Chances are that was unscripted. Once his initial fitness had been confirmed, it was simply a question of who would partner him. Alun Wyn Jones, who I have a lot of time for, looks lost without him and the Lord of the Rings extra that is Geoff Parling will never be in the same category. In what was his final tour, POC will be bitterly disappointed he didn’t get all three tests however he has rightly secured his reputation as one of the great players and representatives of the game.
Sean O’Brien: It was always going to happen, with Warburton hobbling off, the argument had begun. Tipuric, a gifted 7 that is a natural or SOB, probably the most versatile backrow in the Northern Hemisphere. On this one, I think Gatland got it right within the context of his game plan. While O’Brien has been a constant throughout the tour and it’s fair to say that he has probably suffered overall because of his versatility, if Warren ‘F*cking’ Gatland wants brute force then he has it. Saturday is his chance to end the tour on a positive, like Sexton it all comes down to the final whistle.
Jamie Heaslip: With Faletau knocking on the door, Heaslips omission from the final test team simply didn’t register because most people found it hard to fault. While I believe Heaslip to be a better player overall, Faletau has made more carry’s and beaten more defenders then Heaslip. It’s been an uncertain 18 months (I’m being kind) where he has struggled for form, a situation that appears to have been compounded by his new role as Irish captain. However, the second part of the 2012/13 season saw a renewed Heaslip with flashes of old. He has made a valuable contribution to the tour but for a player who has devastated opponents in the past he will undoubtedly have wanted more.
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