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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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The Lions Form XV - Round Two

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Jim Kayes     14 Feb 2017     Getty Images

Gatland will have seen in Ireland’s thrashing of Italy in the second round of the Six Nations a loose trio that was effective with the ball in hand as Ireland ran in nine tries. South African born flanker CJ Stander crossed for three of those in a bruising display of running rugby.

Gatland needs line breakers if the Lions are to beat the All Blacks but just as equally, defence is vital and in that respect, Sam Warburton was outstanding for Wales in their loss to England. He was superbly supported at openside by Justin Tipuric and it’s that combination, rather than anything Stander did or didn’t do, that gives them the nod in this week’s form XV alongside Ireland No8 Jamie Heaslip. England No8 Nathan Hughes is a big lad, but he’s too slow and doesn’t have the work rate to trouble the All Blacks.

The midfield was just as tough to call with Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose impressive in Rome – but how much of that was because Italy were poor? In the arm wrestle in Cardiff, Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies were an effective combination – at least till Davies failed to find touch late in the match and England scored the match-winning try. For me the Irish duo won out, simply because they looked so good with the ball.

Outside them Keith Earls’ double gets him on the team sheet while the left wing is a toss up between Wales’ Liam Williams, who scored a cracking try, and England’s Elliot Daly who scored the match winner. Hard to look past the drama of Daly’s try.

Williams’ try was beautifully created by halfback Rhys Webb who had a mighty game, but Ireland’s Conor Murray was just as good in a very tidy partnership with Paddy Jackson. The Irish pivot was accurate off the kicking tee, effective at straightening the attack and produced some deft passing, but Dan Biggar also had a mighty game for Wales in a tougher tussle.

If there’s an area of concern for Gatland it could be fullback where he has a choice of good, but not great players. England’s Mike Brown lost the ball too much against Wales and while Leigh Halfpenny is a fine goalkicker, he provides too little punch to the Welsh backline. Scotland’s Stuart Hogg is in great form and crossed for his third try for the season in the tight loss to France.

In the tight five, an illness to Ireland’s Rory Best left a yawning hole at hooker that only Wales’ Ken Owens got close to filling. He can pack down this with England’s Joe Marler and Dan Cole, with Alun Wyn Jones and Joe Launchbury tucked in behind at lock.
Round two form XV
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14 Keith Earles (Ireland)
13 Gary Ringrose (Ireland)
12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11 Elliot Daly (England)
10 Dan Biggar (Wales)
9 Conor Murray (Ireland)
8 James Heaslip (Ireland)
7 Justin Tipuric (Wales
6 Sam Warburton (Wales
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Joe Launchbury (England)
3 Dan Cole (England)
2 Ken Owens (Wales)
1 Joe Marler (England)