When researching the players and performances for selecting our hypothetical Lions XV from the professional era the positions that caused the most issues were the wings.
There is no doubt that the Home Nations have produced fine wingers in the last 20 years. Shane Williams, Ben Cohen, and Jason Robinson to name but a few. Williams and Cohen never made the impact for the Lions that their stature demanded, and the legendary Robinson is being considered at fullback in our Lions XV.
The Underestimated Duo
To this end, it had come down to Daffyd James and Tommy Bowe for the right to be named on the right wing for our Lions team. James, the scorer of a fine try in the opening test romp against Australia was ever present in what was ultimately a losing test series, albeit against a truly legendary Australian side. He was also the first man to score 25 tries in the Heineken Cup; however, when putting him head-to-head with the Ulsterman there was only ever going to be one winner.
Ian McGeechan had no problem starting Tommy Bowe in each of the three tests against the rampant 2009 South Africans, where common sense and pre-tour logic would possibly have put him further down the pecking order.
With glowing praise from former Lions legend Ieuan Evans it is easy to see why he was selected.
Bowe has been one of the stand-out players so far and has continued to be the form wing following his performances in the Six Nations. It was his snap, crackle and pop that set up the latest win over Western Province at Newlands. In every game, he has been a constant threat and his physical play will pose a threat to the Springboks next week in Durban.Ieuan Evans
Not only was Bowe a central cog to the Lions in Africa, his stature in the famous red jersey was confirmed in Australia four years later. Having broken his hand in the match against the Reds his tour was threatened; however he managed to regain fitness and replace Alex Cuthbert for the final two tests.
Following in the footsteps of JK
There have been many, many memorable names to don the 14 jersey for the All Blacks since 1995 and an equal number of memorable performances.
Sitting in the Cardiff crowd in 2005 witnessing the truly destructive performance of Rico Gear will last long in my memory, as will Milner-Skudder’s debut and dazzling footwork at the 2015 World Cup. Then again, it’s hard to go past Corey Jane; has there ever been a more resolute, dependable, under-rated winger to wear the jersey made famous by the great JK?
In selecting our right winger we put aside one-off performances, or even snippets of brilliance over a season or two; we also put off statistics, which as we all know only tell part of the story.
When it came to the crunch there were two players that really stood out; one is Jeff Wilson, a child prodigy who burst on to the scene as a cricketer in Hamilton and then popped up on the wing to help himself to a hat-trick on debut and a handy conversion. The other is Doug Howlett, another young superstar, but this time on the athletics track.
The pace of Howlett was always electric and his try-scoring feats keep the anoraks busy; however, from where we are sitting in The Shed at The 1014, Jeff Wilson had just about everything. But on top of this, he also helped deliver the Holy Grail for New Zealand Rugby fans with those two famous tries in Pretoria in ’96 to provide the platform for the series victory.
Jeff Wilson is our right winger.
The professional era teams to date…
1. Tony Woodcock
2. Dane Coles
3. Carl Hayman
4. Brodie Retallick
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Jerry Collins
7. Richie McCaw (c)
8. Kieran Read
9. Aaron Smith
10. Dan Carter
11. Jonah Lomu
12. Ma’a Nonu
13. Conrad Smith
14. Jeff Wilson
1. Tom Smith
2. Keith Wood
3. Phil Vickery
4. Martin Johnson (c)
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Lawrence Dallaglio
7. Richard Hill
8. Jamie Heaslip
9. Matt Dawson
10. Jonny Wilkinson
11. George North
12. Jeremy Guscott
13. Brian O’Driscoll
14. Tommy Bowe
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Author: Steven Prescott
I am a total sports fanatic; it is as simple as that. I love all sports, and when I’m not sitting at my computer living my dream with The 1014, I am planning adventures. The last time I did this I ended up convincing my wife to cycle 26,125km across three continents, and 22 countries with me as part of the Pedalling Prescotts.