Last weekend we learnt that Billy Vunipola will miss the Lions tour due to a shoulder injury.
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) May 21, 2017
None other than the great BOD has suggested that it’s the biggest loss possible.
Absolutely massive blow to @lionsofficial losing Billy Vunipola. Not sure if there could have been a bigger loss of personnel.
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) May 21, 2017
Billy is world class, but this is a team game, not about individuals. Taulupe Faletau is also a world class 8. Even if they are different types of 8, there is cover. There had even been talk of trying to shoehorn them both into the starting 15 by playing one of them at 6. So from a team point of view, the drop off isn’t going to be that significant.
There are arguments that Dan Cole could be more crucial, particularly if you consider how inexperienced the other tightheads on tour are. This is where the injury of WP Nel could cost the Lions dearly. That cover and experience are invaluable.
A man who sees a stampede of wildebeest as a chance for tackling practice ?
It’s @WP_Nel ?
— Barbarian FC (@Barbarian_FC) May 23, 2017
Then there is the argument that Conor Murray, who was so dominant against the All Blacks the last three times out, would be a greater loss. He is a nailed on starter for the first test. The fine player that Rhys Webb is, he does not have those big games and enormous result against this All Blacks side in the proverbial back pocket. Let’s not forget that Murray was arguably the most influential player on the field in that 2013 epic, and was in the thick of it again in Chicago and Dublin last year. To some he is irreplaceable.
And to others, a huge loss actually took place on the day of the team announcement when the English captain was omitted from the team sheet. It is the third Lions tour in a row when the incumbent English captain had been omitted. Yes, he has a history of indiscretions, but he also grew up in New Zealand, played in the uncompromising Rotorua environment, knows the culture better than anyone in the squad, and would love nothing more than to prove the knockers wrong. How much is he regretting that sending off in the 2013 Premiership final?
So yes, Billy is a big loss but there is more than adequate cover. There are other positions where the depth isn’t as deep and there could be greater losses as the tour goes on.
Who would be the biggest loss?
Here at The Shed we want to get your opinion on who would be the biggest loss to the Lions? Let us know what you think.
Author: Paul Bains
Paul is a much travelled Englishman who’s lucked out by living in a country that’s almost as mad as him about rugby. A fan who loves talking and writing about rugby and dreams of one day being able to do it full-time.
You can catch his opinion on world rugby at www.DrivingMaul.com
or chat about rugby on Twitter https://twitter.com/DrivingMaul