Race is on for Test places
May 6, 2013
Tom Croft scored his second try in as many games against London Irish © Getty Images
Warren Gatland finally revealed his 37-man British & Irish Lions squad to tour Australia last week.
Over the course of the season we have brought you our choice of the form British and Irish players on a weekly basis with our Lions Watch feature.
And now is no time to stop. Here we give you the latest form guide as the focus now switches to the fight for a place in team for the opening Test against Australia.
England scrum-half Ben Youngs is thriving on the harder tracks of early summer and he scored another blistering try against Irish, spotting the gap and then turbo-charging to the tryline. It was his fourth try in the last three matches.
Tom Croft's unique talents have also come to the fore in recent weeks and he grabbed his second try in as many matches in the Tigers' latest Premiership success. His ability to pose a threat out wide, as he did against Irish, offers an interesting option for the Lions.
Jonny Sexton continues to move smoothly back towards his best form following hamstring and foot injuries which at one stage appeared to threaten his Lions hopes. He kicked three penalties and three conversions in a strong display for Leinster.
Sean O'Brien, who switched to No.8 for Leinster in the absence of fellow Lion Jamie Heaslip, produced a powerful display against the Ospreys, showing the kind of versatility and ball-carrying ability that secured his place on the plane to Australia.
Hooker Dylan Hartley celebrated what some saw as a surprise Lions selection with a try and strong performance in Northampton's 22-19 defeat to Harlequins.
Tommy Bowe continues to time his run at a place in the Lions Test team perfectly with another strong performance for Ulster. Although it fell to his team-mate Andrew Trimble to bag two tries, Bowe was a constant threat and an important all-round influence.
Saracens prop Mako Vunipola was a surprise call up to many. But against Bath he showed his potential with ball in hand, scoring one of Sarries' three tries, and overcoming a tough early start in the scrum against David Wilson.
Cian Healy came off the bench for Leinster and made an immediate impact with a try and a powerful carrying game that helped the Irish province to victory over the Ospreys. Elsewhere, Glasgow flyer Sean Maitland impressed as a replacement against Connacht and his efforts were rewarded with a try.
The Dragons may have slumped to their 16th defeat of the PRO12 campaign at the hands of Edinburgh but Wales flanker Dan Lydiate offered further evidence that he is getting back to his best having only recently returned from injury with a second half try at Murrayfield.
And the rest...
Fly-half hopeful Owen Farrell endured a mixed day during Saracens' victory over Bath. He landed two penalties and a conversion as well as touching down for a crucial try, but struggled with the blustery wind at Allianz Park and was sin-binned for a high shot on Bath counterpart Tom Heathcote.
Leicester's remaining Lions contingent - Geoff Parling, Tom Youngs, Manu Tuilagi and Dan Cole - all contributed as the Tigers powered past London Irish in the Aviva Premiership. Glasgow fullback Stuart Hogg was another to catch the eye against Connacht.
Toby Faletau could not prevent the Dragons going down to Edinburgh while the Ospreys' contingent Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric all managed to emerge from the defeat to Leinster with their reputations intact, but far from enhanced.
Saracens prop Matt Stevens enjoyed a solid day in the set-piece and around the park against Bath. Munster's Paul O'Connell and Leinster's Rob Kearney produced solid, if unspectacular, performances for their teams. Wales duo George North and Jonathan Davies failed to spark as the Scarlets slumped to a heavy defeat to Treviso.
Missing from action...
Cardiff Blues' Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny all missed the defeat to Ulster, while the Ospreys' Richard Hibbard and Ian Evans, Munster's Conor Murray, Sale Sharks' Richie Gray and Leinster duo Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip also sat out this weekend's action.
In the French Top 14, Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips started for Bayonne in their narrow 36-33 win over Mont-de-Marsan while Gethin Jenkins was not involved in Toulon's 43-21 win over Agen.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene