With two weekends of the Six Nations gone, the XV that we might see tour Australia this summer in a British and Irish Lions shirt. Here’s who I’d pick after the first two games.
15 – Stuart Hogg (Scotland): Simply electric. Two length of the field tries and a fine break to set up Sean Maitland’s try against England confirmed Hogg’s attacking talent. Proof of his defensive attributes in the next three games will make his spot secure.
14 – George North (Wales): A quiet start to the tournament. Came to life when it counted to score the crucial try against France. Nothing would be finer than watching all 109kg running over Quade Cooper.
13 – Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland): Divine. Threatened to tear Wales to shreds at times. Less impressive against England, but conditions were atrocious, and was constantly put on the back foot by those inside him.
12 – Brad Barritt (England): The cornerstone of England’s renaissance. His tackle stats are exceptional, and his selfless play allows those around him to play with a far greater freedom.
11 – Tim Visser (Scotlnd): Finishing ability is world class. Visser has an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time. There are still questions to be answered about his defensive play. Alex Cuthbert and Simon Zebo are unlucky to miss out.
10 – Owen Farrell (England): Won his duel with contender Jonathan Sexton. Attacking game appears to improve weekly, as does his kicking from hand. Defence has never been an issue. Ice in his veins when kicking from the tee.
9 – Ben Youngs (England): No outstanding candidate. Youngs won the head to head battle with Conor Murray last time out. The greatest threat around the fringes, kicking is also improving. With Mike Phillips struggling and Greig Laidlaw suffering Austin Healy syndrome, Youngs gets the nod.
8 – Toby Faletau (Wales): Rarely puts a foot wrong. Fantastic carrier in attack and strong in the contact area in defence. The Welshman’s athleticism will be needed to neutralise David Pocock (and/or Michael Hooper). The main beneficiary of Jamie Heaslip’s Dublin horror-show.
7 – Justin Tipuric (Wales): Central to Wales’s rally against Ireland and turned in another excellent performance against France. His greater speed around the field and impact when carrying the ball are rightfully keeping Sam Warburton on the bench.
6 – Chris Robshaw (England): Robshaw’s affect on the game always appears to be greater than the sum of his parts. A leader who is maturing with every test. Strong with the ball in hand, excellent distribution for a back-row and solid in defence.
5 – Geoff Parling (England): The brains of the operation. Not only does Parling expertly manage the lineout, he always features towards the top of the tackle stats. Notoriously quick in getting back to his feet, the Englishman is never far from the action.
4 – Richie Gray (Scotland): The giant lock is always heavily involved for Scotland. Deceptively quick, good side-step for a lock and even known to throw the odd dummy. The firmer surfaces in Australia will suit his marauding style.
3 – Dan Cole (England): Probably the best tight-head in the world. Scrummaging is always solid and often spectacular. His work at the break down in defence is becoming increasingly influential.
2 – Rory Best (Ireland): Fantastic against Wales until sin-binned. Covers more ground than most hookers, and like Cole is excellent at winning turnover ball. Performances must stay strong if he is to hold off other contenders.
1 – Gethin Jenkins (Wales): 96 caps for Wales and previous Lions experience stands Jenkins in good stead. Continues to play to the highest standard. Versatility at the scrum is a bonus