herald

Thursday 23 October 2014

Drico back on red alert as Lions rival Davies hits town

THE Welsh are almost as one-eyed as the Irish when it comes to the British & Irish Lions.

At the closure of the November international window, however, even former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies could not ignore the failings of his country.

He was one of a host of former players and coaches asked to take a shot at his British & Irish Lions Test team on the basis that "everyone was fit" when the dust had settled in December.

Davies divided his 15 spots into six Welsh, six Irish, two English and one Scot, simply ignoring England's defeat of the All Blacks.

He is charmed by hooker Rory Best, number eight Jamie Heaslip, out-half Jonathan Sexton, full-back Rob Kearney, wing Tommy Bowe and, of course, centre Brian O'Driscoll.

The most interesting decision was to pair O'Driscoll at 12 with his namesake, Wales' Jonathan Davies, at 13. No Jamie Roberts. No Manu Tuilagi.

The switch of Brian O'Driscoll from outside to inside centre has often been mooted as just around the last bend of his career.

It has never happened for Leinster or for Ireland. To this point.

The reason is simple. A sharp mind outruns quick feet almost every time. When it comes to leading the line of defence and making split-second decisions as play unfolds, there is none better with and without the pill.

While Davies is the bigger man with the acceleration O'Driscoll once had, he does not have the distribution skills necessary to unlock an Australian defence.

In fact, his tendency to tuck the ball under his left arm as he's running is a give-away sign that he intends to keep it rather than feed it.

In other words, Davies is more predictable in what he does and, therefore, easier for defences to read as the ball is moved into the wider channels.

Despite this, Davies was rightly chosen as one of three northern hemisphere players named in a 2012 World XV compiled by the New Zealand Herald, England's Dan Cole and Scotland's Richie Gray also making the grade.

The 24-year-old from Carmarthen has taken over the Scarlets captaincy for their last five matches in the absence of injured Rob McCusker.

Generally, Davies wears the number 13 jersey when natural 12 Scott Williams is free to play. He can alternate due to his physical size and straight-line running.

When the Scarlets come to the RDS, Warren Gatland will be a most interested spectator as a three-time Lion and one-time captain face off against 'The Man Who Could Be King'.

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