When Warren Gatland announced the 2013 Lions squad, he sparked a lot of controversy regarding the number of Welsh players contained in the team. His gamble seems to have paid off, putting four rather impressive victories under their belts. Gatland proved that it’s not the colour of the rugby shirts the players wear at home but how they work together within the Lions squad that counts!
Players per country
In a 37 man squad you are highly unlikely to get an even keel when it comes to the selection of players, however Warren Gatland’s choice was a surprise to many. Most noticeably was the inclusion of 15 Welsh players, an entire starting team, followed by the absence of Scotland who only had three players introduced to the team. Gatland was fairer when choosing players from England and Ireland with their numbers standing at 10 and 9 men, respectively. So how has this domination of Welsh players affected the squad?
Wales vs. the Score
What is the best way to measure the performance of Welsh players in the squad? Let’s try using simple mathematics. In the four games so far Welsh players have scored 13 of the lions’ 28 tries, that’s a whopping 46%! In addition to this, Leigh Halfpenny put over 12 conversions and two penalties, sticking another 30 onto the score card for Wales. It is worth noting that the match between the Lions and the Queensland Reds saw the least Welsh players on the pitch and achieved the lowest final score so far – more Wales, more points?
Fast and furious
The pace of the current Lions squad is rapid, with fast ball being issued, trick passes being thrown and big hits being put in. The free-flowing, insanely quick passages of play were so intense during the match against the Reds that even Brian O’Driscoll wondered aloud whether the game could last at that pace. This is the tactic Gatland implemented in the Welsh squad over the last few years, building his players endurance up so they can maintain a breakneck pace even past the 70 minute mark. However, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just when their on the aggression that this pace shows – they fully demonstrated their impervious defence during the 64-0 win against Western Force.
Where do Wales stand in best Lions’ players of all time?
The Welsh players have proved their worth time and time again in the early stages of this tour, proving to be some of the most vital players in the Lions squad. There have been stand out players from all four nations in the 2013 squad, with some undoubtedly carving their names in with as all-time best. Interestingly, in a recent revealing of the 50 best Lions’ players by the Guardian the best ever player was Gareth Edwards – a Welshman! He added to the 16 other Welsh players who made the top 50 list, a number matched by England with Ireland and Scotland coming in with 9 players a piece. If the Lions maintain their current demolition streak we may see some of their rugby shirts making this list in years to come!
Written by http://www.rugbyclearance.co.uk/