Expanding The Pride – From Lions To Fantasy Rugby

RBS Six Nations webchatWith three French sides making up four of the European finalists this year, I’ve heard a few people wonder why The British and Irish Lions tour hasn’t been expanded to include Italy and France. At first I dismissed the idea but now I’m more inclined to think maybe there is something in it? When the Lions kick off against the Babas this Saturday it will be the end of a long four year wait, but are we missing something?

The Lions Tour is full of pomp and tradition, it is etched into the history of Rugby and to change it now would be unrealistic. However, that doesn’t mean there is no room for a new idea, or at least a tweaked plan. The North v South debate is one that continuously pops up and gets heated – The Lions tour is often cited as an example of a chance to see North v South in a test match setting that isn’t your normal game of rugby. To an extent this is true but, why not look at an idea that so far has only really been put together for charity games. Why not introduce a test series of Northern Hemisphere v Southern Hemisphere?

Ignore the scheduling debate for a minute and indulge yourself in the potential battles that could take place, a back row consisting of Picamoles, Parisse and Sean O’Brien – a Southern back line featuring Dagg, Habana and Ioane; whatever way you choose to select the teams there are combinations that link up to create the stuff dreams are made of. There are all sorts of logistical combinations to be taken into consideration and it could be as simple as a Six Nations Team v Rugby Championship team, or, you could open it up totally and make it a full on world battle where the divide is the Equator and every country above the line is available for north, every country below for south, a World War of Rugby if you want to apply the Sky Sports dramatics to it. Let’s be honest, we’ve all attempted to create a fantasy Six Nations team or had a go at a Heineken Cup team, so why not open it up a bit and indulge in your dream team selections?

If the World War option is what’s been taken naturally there would have to be some restrictions in place to ensure the squads expand beyond the Six Nations and SANZAR regions. America, Russia, Canada and Georgia all offer useful prospects in the north while down south you have the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga who offer some seriously viable options.

Naturally this is an idea that would require knowledge far beyond my limits but the idea is one that led me to go all ‘Football Manager’ on the rugby end of it and start creating team after team. I’ve gone with my match day 23’s and I’ve restricted myself in a bit that I’m not allowing myself any more than three players from any one nation in the North and four in the South, purely because of the difference in number of nations competing at test level in each hemisphere – by no means am I suggesting these are the best teams of all the resources in the north or south, this is just the team I would put together in terms of favourites and talent etc. The idea being I’d like to open the debate beyond what we seen when the Lions squad was selected, this is a dream team scenario. This is fantasy rugby, you have to pick a team of northern players v southern players for a test match, who would you pick?

Northern Hemisphere                                               Southern Hemisphere

15: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)                                   15: Israel Dagg (NZ)  

14: Tim Visser (Scotland)                                          14: Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Fiji)

13: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)                                 13: Adam Ashley Cooper (Aus)

12: Wesley Fofana (France)                                      12: Francois Steyn (SA)

11: George North (Wales)                                             11:  Fetu’u Vainikolo (Tonga)

10: Ian Madigan (Ireland)                                          10: Dan Carter (NZ)

9: Morgan Parra (France)                                             9: Flourie Du Preez (SA)

1: Cian Healy (Irelamd)                                                    1: Tendai Mtawarira (SA)

2: Tom Youngs (England)                                               2: Ti’i Paulo (Samoa)

3: Davit Zirakashvili (Georgia)                                    3: Stan Wright (Cook Island)

4: Jamie Cudmore (Canada)                                          4: Sam Whitelock (NZ)

5: Geoff Parling (England)                                                5: Bakkies Botha (SA)

6: Louis Picamoles (France)                                            6: Rocky Elsom (Aus)

7: Tom Croft (England)                                                        7: Richie McCaw (NZ)

8: Sergio Parrisse (Italy)                                                    8: Juan Martin Fernandez Loeb (Arg)                                                                                                                

Replacements:                                                                                                                     

16: Richard Hibbard (Wales)                                           16: Stephen Moore (Aus)

17: Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy)                                   17: Census Johnson (Samoa)

18:  Ryan Grant (Scotland)                                                 18: Taione Vea (Tonga)

19: Adam Byrne (Russia)                                                    19: Tomas Vallejo Cinalli (Arg)

20:  Alessandro Zanni (Italy)                                           20:  David Pocock (Aus)

21: Vasily Artemyev (Russia)                                             21: Nikola Matawalu (Fiji)

22: Fumiaki Tanka (Japan)                                               22: Alex Tuilagi (Samoa)

23: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)                                                  23: Martin Moyana (Arg)                                 

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