David Wallace: 'Real deal' Zebo could miss his Test chance once Bowe returns

The former Ireland and Lions flanker feels Warren Gatland did a disservice to Andrew Trimble and Tim Visser by selecting Shane Williams on Tuesday.

Zebo was denied a try against the Waratahs by the TMO.
Zebo was denied a try against the Waratahs by the TMO.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE LIONS STARTING XV is basically the same as I would have picked with the only surprise being Alex Corbisiero getting selected ahead of Mako Vunipola, who was playing really well.

Sean O’Brien should have been named on the bench. In the Six Nations, when Ireland were spluttering and coping with a huge injury list, he stood out, took on a lot of ball and played excellently.

He shouldn’t be judged on the defeat to the Brumbies as that team was set up along the lines of the Barbarians rather than the Lions. Three guys – Shane Williams, Christian Wade and Brad Barritt – were parachuted in and they all met, as a team, for the first time at the captain’s run. I was a bit disappointed that it happened like that.

I’ve nothing against Williams but his selection does a disservice to current pro’s like Andrew Trimble and Tim Visser. He’s been out of international rugby for almost two years and not even playing at the highest level in Japan. I thought it was a case of Warren Gatland suiting himself. It was not in the Lions tradition.

There was a reason for it of course as Gatland will be judged on the Test Series and he did not want any of his starting 15 picking up injuries. If there had been another No.10 on tour it may have made the difference on Tuesday. In fairness to Stuart Hogg, who filled in at outhalf, he hasn’t played there at a professional level. The 10 is responsible for controlling the game as well as goalkicking. It didn’t go well for him and has cost him a place on the bench tomorrow.

There will hopefully be a positive reaction to the first defeat on tour and it will certainly have steeled the resolve of the Test team.

Alex Cuthbert dives over to score against Combined Country XV. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

I would also have had Conor Murray on the bench. He’s a great attacking asset and has been second choice to Mike Philips all tour but Warren Gatland has gone with Ben Youngs, who services his backline and gets the passes out more than anything. Alex Cuthbert has been good in attack so far but has struggled defensively. Warren Gatland, however, often selects players in terms of size. He will try to run the Australians over out wide.

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Cuthbert will go up against Digby Ioane on the wing. He is a massive player, part of a dangerous backline, and is really one to watch. They did a clean up job on his knee earlier in the year and he is out of match practice. He is, nonetheless, an extremely potent attacker.

Sean Maitland was fortunate to make the bench. I really thought Simon Zebo could’ve filled that slot. Many people still look at Simon as an unproven package and feel he has to prove himself. I think he’s the real deal; he possesses and unbelievable skill-set and brings something different to the party. He is up against it now, when it comes to squad selection for the second and third Tests as Tommy Bowe will be back and Cuthbert may drop to the bench.

Australia’s ace in the squad is not even starting. In Kurtley Beale, they have a guy that can work miracles and provide a real impact off the bench.

When it comes to injuries, the real losses, I feel, are Cian Healy and Manu Tuilagi. They have come through six games relatively unscathed, in comparison to past tours, but losing Tuilagi [shoulder] and Jamie Roberts [hamstring] weakens the midfield, which was previously an area of real strength for the Lions.

What cost us in 2009, in South Africa, was the relentlessness of the injuries. If the Lions can stem that flow and dominate at the breakdown they are in with a real chance of a series win.

David Wallace (pictured here with President Michael D Higgins) played for the Lions in 2001 and 2009. He is a board member with Special Olympics Ireland – @SOlreland – who are celebrating 10 years since the games were staged in Ireland.

‘O’Brien didn’t put a foot wrong but has to watch from the stands’ — Shane Byrne

Little Leigh Halfpenny ready to take to the skies against 6’5″ Israel Folau

About the author:

David Wallace  / Former Munster and Ireland flanker.

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