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Brian O’Driscoll names his Lions XV to beat South Africa and explains why his own partnership with Jonathan Davies flopped

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Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has named three Wales stars in the Lions XV he feels Warren Gatland needs to pick against South Africa.

The former Lions captain chose Jonathan Davies, Tomos Williams and Alun Wyn Jones in the line-up he believes can beat the world champion Springboks.

His side is dominated by Eddie Jones’ England stars, with no fewer than eight of them making the cut for O’Driscoll.

Only two of his fellow Irishmen are selected, with two Scots also getting in.

One of those Irish stars is James Ryan, who according to O’Driscoll should partner Wales captain Alun Wyn in the second row.

To accommodate that, O’Driscoll chooses England colossus Maro Itoje in the back row at blindside flanker. He is chosen next to former Ospreys star Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola.

Of the back-row selection, O’Driscoll told the Off The Ball podcast: “If Billy Vunipola can stay fit he’ll be No.8. Taulupe Faletau has been riddled with injury as well but Gats loves Faletau, so there’s every chance if he can get back to fitness, he’ll be in the mix somehow.

“And when you think of that try he scored against New Zealand in 2017, that was the difference in the second Test. It’s those moments coaches remember, the players who can deliver on the big occasions.

“Gats maybe has gone back to Welsh players in the past two Lions tours, because he knows they are tried and tested and they’ve delivered for him winning Grand Slams and Six Nations titles.

“The back-row is a really tough one and at seven do you pick Justin Tipuric, Sam Underhill or Hamish Watson on another day?

“I don’t think there’s a huge amount between the three of them. Probably Underhill, maybe Tipuric, ahead of Watson, but I’d be happy with any of the three of them.

“I questioned whether Alun Wyn Jones would still be capable of delivering in a year’s time.

“But I just know the warrior that is in him and the animal that he is.

“I know the appetite he has for work, so I fancy he’ll still be able to piece himself together for one last hurrah.”

O’Driscoll says there is nothing to choose between Stuart Hogg and Liam Williams at full-back, although he just plumps for the Scot.

“You’re not losing a lot either way in that,” he says.

O’Driscoll also argues Jonathan Davies will hold off the 13 challenge from Garry Ringrose as “the man in possession” of the Lions jersey.

“I think that’s working in his favour even though he hasn’t shown any form because he hasn’t played since the World Cup. Jonathan has been a big success on the last two tours, particularly the last one,” says O’Driscoll.

In selecting Davies, the Ireland great also addressed his own Lions partnership with the Wales ace against Australia in 2013 and admitted it simply didn’t work.

The two were thrust together after Jamie Roberts was struggling with a hamstring injury and England’s Manu Tuilagi was nursing a stinger.

It meant O’Driscoll found himself lining up with Davies for the opening two Tests with the Wallabies.

“We were out-and-out 13s and as much as I talked about moving into 12 for certain players, I’m far more comfortable in the 13 jersey, when I’m out there from an attack point of view with space, but also from the defensive point of view,” said O’Driscoll.

“Simply from the injuries to Manu Tuilagi and Jamie Roberts, we were forced into being the centre pairing for the first Test and that would definitely not have been a first choice selection had four or three centres been fit.

Australia hooker Stephen Moore takes on Brian O’Driscoll (L) and Jonathan Davies during the Lions first Test in 2013 (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“As much as individually we were good players, as a partnership I just don’t think it worked in the two Test matches. We didn’t read off one another well, in attack and defence.”

O’Driscoll, of course, found himself dropped in favour of Davies for the Test decider back in 2013 – a Warren Gatland decision that provoked a storm.

However, while O’Driscoll is open about why his tie-up with Davies flopped, he is gushing about Jamie Roberts and the partnership they had against South Africa in 2009.

O’Driscoll’s Lions career spanned 12 years and eight Tests and he said: “I really did gel with Jamie Roberts, given we were two players who’d never played together before that.

“I felt as though we had a very good understanding of one another from early on.

“Jamie was a young player then, and not wishing to sound conceited, you are trying to help and guide younger players, as much as I was helped by the older players in my early years on the 2001 tour.

“I think he was about 22 or 23 back then. He was very much the student, trying to soak up as much information in understanding his role.

“The beauty of that is he knew what his strengths were. He carried ball and had the necessary aggressiveness against South African defences as well.

“It married up our partnership really well where he was comfortable with me going in and playing at 12 and him running dummy lines or taking on that crash ball.

“I think he probably developed and honed his passing game in later years. But he was known as someone who ran a viciously hard line, picked some great angles and scored some terrific tries, as a result of the cleverness of those lines.

“He was happy to play that role within that Test team. I really enjoyed playing with him because we were able to understand and play-off one another.”

Of the XV he has picked to take on the Springboks next year, O’Driscoll said: “I think the best Lions team I played in is a toss-up between 2001 and ’09 and I think this team matches any of them.

“You look at the calibre, you want X-factor and guys who can win games on their own I look at 15 and 14 immediately in Hogg and Watson.

“This team has the capability of taking on the Springboks.”

Brian O’Driscoll’s Lions XV: Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Anthony Watson (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Jonny May (England); Owen Farrell (England), Tomos Williams (Wales); Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Jamie George (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), James Ryan (Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Maro Itoje (England), Sam Underhill (England), Billy Vunipola (England).



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Six Nations Rugby | Le Garrec: Runners-up spot marks fitting send-off for departing players

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2019 champions Ireland had started the day as the only side who could mathematically topple eventual winners England at the top of the ranks, and Jamie Osborne’s try put France on the back foot early on.

Alex Kendellen also went over for the men in green in a try-filled first half, but scores from Thibault Debaes, Pierre Bochaton and Paul Mallez earned Les Bleuets a slender lead at the break.

Though Kendellen notched a second at the death Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s cleverly-worked try proved enough for France, helping them leapfrog their opponents in the standings.

Scrum-half Le Garrec said: “We’re really proud of our performance against Ireland – it’s great to finish on a high and give a good impression of ourselves.

“There are a lot of important players who will be leaving us after a number of years – the likes of Matthias [Haddad] and Paul [Mallez] – and we wanted to give back to them on the pitch.

“We have lots of good players. In some matches we struggled with our structure and getting out of our half, but with the ball we are capable of creating things. I love our style of play.”

Thibault Debaes

After an opening round defeat to England three-time winners France swept aside Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in successive matches, and Le Garrec’s half-back partner Debaes agreed there were plenty of positives to take from the campaign.

Debaes, 19, picked up the Player of the Match plaudits against Ireland, having controlled the second half with a scintillating kicking display while also contributing a try.

He added: “Unfortunately the second half against England lost us the Championship, but we learnt a lot throughout the series. We were put under pressure by every team, but we learned to manage games and the end of matches.

“The level was high in every match and we are very happy to finish the Championship in second place.”

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Jonah Lomu’s son reveals he ‘dreams’ of playing in the Six Nations

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The son of All Black superstar Jonah Lomu has revealed he’d prefer to play in the Six Nations should he follow in his legendary late father’s footsteps.

Dhyreille Lomu, who currently plays on the wing, was born in France during his Dad’s brief stint playing for Marseille, hence any eligibility discussions for Les Bleus wouldn’t be an issue.

Known as Frenchie at school in New Zealand, the aspiring youngster has already began to impress at a number of age-grade tournaments in New Zealand.

Despite being 12, he’s already played in older teams as his obvious talent is beginning to shine through.

Lomu’s stime in France came towards the end of the his career, which also included a stint with the Cardiff Blues in Europe.

EDITORS PICKS:

Tragically, Lomu died in November 2015.

Playing on the wing Lomu finished his international career with 63 caps and 37 tries. He is regarded as the first true global superstar of rugby and consequently had a huge impact on the game

Below, we look at five other rugby legends sons who are making waves, but currently represent different countries to their legendary Dads.

Here’s a list of rugby legends sons who are set to play in the Six Nations.

1. Lucas Brooke (England)

  • Age: 19
  • Club: London Irish
  • Position: back-row
  • Dad: Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)

Brooke, who can play across the back-row or at hooker, grew up in England so is fully qualified to wear the red rose. The powerhouse has represented Berkshire at county level and regularly played for his school, Wellington College.

CONTINUES ON PAGE 2




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Six Nations Rugby | Preview: France aim to make history in third Test against Australia

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Les Bleus bounced back from their heart-breaking loss in the opening match of the series with a first win over the Wallabies on Australian soil in 31 years on Tuesday.

And now they will look to clinch the series back in Brisbane to record a first-ever series win on Australian soil.

It would be a remarkable achievement for Les Bleus, particularly when you consider that they travelled Down Under without the majority of their first-choice players because of a combination of injuries, rest and the absence of the Top 14 finalists.

In their absence, a number of players have staked a claim for bigger roles within Fabien Galthié’s side, and victory in the third Test would only strengthen those claims.

Team news

With three Tests in 11 days, and more importantly, a five-day turnaround, there were always going to be changes for both sides.

Yet Galthié and counterpart Dave Rennie have both shown faith in some of their key men, with France starting six players for the third Test in a row, while Australia have gone for even more continuity with eight players starting each Test of the series.

Fly-half Antoine Hastoy is the one uncapped player in the French starting XV, while centre Pierre-Louis Barassi and winger Teddy Thomas make their first appearances of the tour.

Anthony Jelonch will lead the side once again, joining Baptiste Couilloud, Arthur Vincent, Damian Penaud, Melvyn Jaminet and Gaëtan Barlot in starting every Test. After a standout display in the second Test, Cameron Woki starts once again in the back row.

There are two uncapped players on the bench, back-rower Alexandre Bécognée and centre Julien Hériteau.

For Australia, exciting scrum-half Tate McDermott gets his opportunity to start after coming off the bench in the first two matches, while Isi Naisarani is rewarded for some strong replacement showings after being named at No.8.

Ones to watch

In Gaël Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa, France already boast one of the top centre combinations in the world, but this tour has seen Arthur Vincent show just why he was thrust onto the highest scene as a 20-year-old.

The Montpellier centre shifts to inside centre for this one, but will again line up against Hunter Paisami, having largely nullified the threat of one of Australia’s main strike runners in the second Test where Vincent made 25 tackles.

He links up with Pierre-Louis Barassi, the Lyon centre who ended the season in flying form and will be looking to get the better of Wallaby newcomer Len Ikitau, who is making his first Test start.

What they said

France captain Anthony Jelonch said: “This squad is hungry for wins. So after the win in the second Test, everyone turned their attention to Saturday’s game and had the feeling that we could do something truly historic. Winning this series, that’s not happened for a long time in the southern hemisphere.

“The squad has one aim, to win this match. We will all be ready to produce a big performance this weekend, especially after what we’ve seen on social media: the support of the public, all the families following us, it warms your heart.”

Teams

Australia: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 13. Len Ikitau, 12. Hunter Paisami, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Noah Lolesio, 9. Tate McDermott, 1. James Slipper 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Isi Naisarani

Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Angus Bell, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Matt Philip, 20. Rob Valetini, 21. Jake Gordon, 22. Matt To’omua, 23. Reece Hodge

France: 15. Melvyn Jaminet, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12. Arthur Vincent, 11. Teddy Thomas, 10. Antoine Hastoy, 9. Baptiste Couilloud, 1. Enzo Forletta, 2. Gaëtan Barlot, 3. Sipili Falatea, 4. Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 5. Romain Taofifenua, 6. Dylan Cretin, 7. Cameron Woki, 8. Anthony Jelonch (c)

Replacements: 16. Anthony Etrillard, 17. Quentin Walcker, 18. Demba Bamba, 19. Baptiste Pesenti, 20. Alexandre Bécognée, 21. Teddy Iribaren, 22. Anthony Bouthier, 23. Julien Hériteau



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