Lions coach Warren Gatland got things critically wrong before he embarked on what is shaping as the long haul to nowhere.

Gatland brought an army yet still managed to leave two vital troops at home and get his choice of general wrong.

Anyone with half an interest in the Lions putting up a decent fight in the test series knew they would have to turn it into a furious stop-start war. But Gatland blew it at captain, fullback and hooker.

From this squad, the veteran Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones was the right man to lead, not Sam Warburton. AWJ showed what he could do in a crisis, when he rallied the troops as the Lions' stand-in captain for the third test victory over Australia four years ago. He is a man others love to follow into battle, with a few much-needed rough edges.


The Wales Online put it this way: "He is known for his combative press conference performances and what some see as a sandpaper personality."

Warburton - a class act - is too passive to lead this team, is a doubtful test selection, and his star has been on the wane anyway.

The Welsh lock was the man. Temporary Welsh coach Rob Howley publicly stated Warburton had lost his mojo, when replacing him with AWJ as captain this year.

Bad-boy Kiwi hooker Dylan Hartley had to be in the squad and despite being from England, kind of, he was the ideal leader. Hartley is almost a reformed character, since Eddie Jones gave him the England captaincy, but not quite.

Hartley is so crazy that he head-butted Jamie George, his English team mate and rival for the No. 2 jersey, during a club game. It cost him a World Cup place. These Lions need a bit of crazy.

No one would condone head butting of course, nor Hartley's rap sheet. But no one would condone Lions players who don't seem to give a !@#$ either. And Hartley does give a you know what on the field.

The other bloke they need is the England fullback Mike "Angry" Brown. The notoriously combative Brown didn't have the form, some pundits claimed. But he has form where it counts, as a take-no-prisoners No. 15 who will defend to the bitter and fight for every loose ball, every tackle, every bomb.

Anthony Watson's fancy footwork might cause a few problems from fullback, definitely, but he's a bit too fancy and that's not how the Lions need to play. I wouldn't give you tuppence for the once impressive Leigh Halfpenny in this series. Brown was the man for this arduous tour.


At the very least, Gatland had to give himself the option of firing up a dirty war by bringing Hartley and Brown to New Zealand. Tests aside, Brown and Hartley could have energised an apparently pathetic midweek mob if they weren't deemed test standard.

Attitude is absolutely everything for this Lions side now. If they can find enough wagons to surround an army, they need to get them in a circle and generate an us-against-the-world mentality.

The horrible Lions midweek squad reverted to playing well below expectations against the Highlanders.

For the sake of the contest, let's hope the mass of disparate also-rans in this enormous Lions squad don't undermine what the core group of test quality players might be able to achieve, against the odds.

Gatland has hamstrung himself though, going into a war without a few terrific loose cannons. With Stuart Hogg forced out of the tour by friendly-fire, Bomber Brown is still nowhere to be seen.

Black, black, black...

Rieko out world, the Blues wing is among a new All Black breed set to continue New Zealand's overwhelming domination. Photo / Greg Bowker
Rieko out world, the Blues wing is among a new All Black breed set to continue New Zealand's overwhelming domination. Photo / Greg Bowker

Matt Giteau, the mercurial little Aussie back, is absolutely right. The depth in New Zealand rugby is scary. The gap with the rest of the world will only grow, unfortunately. The emergence of players like Rieko Ioane and Jack Goodhue indicates that. For my money, Ioane is already the All Blacks' number one wing.