UK media call for Faletau to replace Jack Conan, despite Gatland praise
'Other than one cheeky dummy and burst... '
After the Lions' 22-17 win over South Africa, Jack Conan earned the praise of his teammates and his coaches, but some of the UK rugby media set want him gone for the Second Test.
With most player ratings, the final tally is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone sees the game through their own prism, so you will never get uniformity.
With our own player ratings, from Saturday's game, Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes got 9/10 and 8. Ali Price and Conan also got 8s, while Elliot Daly (4) received our lowest rating.
Conan received anywhere from 5 to 8 across the various rugby correspondents' ratings. Irish and Scottish outlets scored him a host of 7s and 8s. Some English and Welsh reporters were not as convinced. In his ratings for The Telegraph, Dan Schofield gave Conan 5/10 and rated him as the worst of the Lions starters. He wrote:
'Other than one cheeky dummy and burst, Conan was ineffective against the Bokke ballast. A selection error having no out-and-out No 8 replacement to freshen things up.'
English fullback Mike Brown was more complimentary in his Daily Mail ratings - scoring him 7/10 - but still raised the spectre of Toby Faletau replacing the Leinster and Ireland star at No.8.
'Jack Conan had a worthy match without noticeably making dents in the Springboks,' he wrote, the smart play for me would be to restore one of Gatland’s career favourites, Taulupe Faletau, to the back row.'
Over in The Times, meanwhile, Welsh writer Stephen Jones praised the Lions for the manner of their comeback victory, but urged head coach Warren Gatland to make changes for the Second Test.
Jones wants Chris Harris in for Elliot Daly, would consider replacing Duhan van der Merwe with Liam Williams and the headline to his piece calls for Faletau to replace Conan.
'It will still be such a tight call for Gatland to pick him or Taulupe Faletau next week,' Jones writes.
That selection debate was also covered on the BBC's Rugby Union Weekly, with Ugo Monye also mentioning Faletau - a three-tour veteran - as an option to freshen up the Lions.
Amid the shade being thrown Conan's way, it is worth revisiting Gatland's comments about the man on Saturday night.
"He's incredibly accurate. He takes those kick-offs, he's got some good foot-work, he got us some go-forward, and he does a lot of the unspectacular stuff that you need in a forward pack to get the balance right... this week, he seemed calmer and a lot more assured. I think it has given him a lot of confidence and self-belief in his own performances."
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 6