Lions Watch: Hogg bosses Ireland, Hartley rusty on return


With a British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand on the horizon the pressure is on to catch Warren Gatland's eye during the Six Nations.

While Gatland may have some names already inked in to take on the huge challenge of facing the All Blacks, the New Zealander still has some big decisions to make.

Not least over who will captain the Lions and Alun Wyn Jones showed why he is a leading contender by driving Wales on in his first game since replacing Sam Warburton as skipper in Rome, where Italy were beaten 33-7 on Sunday.

Stuart Hogg will surely be on the plane after starring for Scotland in a 27-22 victory over Ireland on Saturday, but Dylan Hartley will need to raise his game after a rusty return in England's 19-16 win over France.

We look at which Lions contenders were roaring and who made a tame start on the opening weekend of the tournament.


Good week

Stuart Hogg - The Glasgow Warriors man was outstanding at Murrayfield, scoring the opening try before selling a brilliant dummy and scampering away for a superb second in the first half. Lions coach Gatland was at Murrayfield to witness Hogg's latest heroics, which came after he also claimed a brace against Georgia in his last Test.

Elliot Daly - The versatility of Daly could tempt Gatland to call-up the Wasps man. He landed a penalty from way out in an all-action display, shifting from the wing to centre when Eddie Jones reshuffled the back line in the second half. The gifted Daly was also denied a try by the TMO.

The Gray brothers - While Hogg got most of the plaudits, Richie and Jonny Gray also stood out for Vern Cotter's men. The siblings did the dirty work and defended heroically as Scotland started the tournament on a high note.

Owen Farrell - Farrell has been billed as a future England captain and his influence on the side was there for all to see once again. As trusty as ever with the boot, he also laid on an inviting pass for Ben Te'o's winning try after moving from centre to fly-half. With Jonathan Sexton out injured, Farrell may have nudged ahead in the battle for the number 10 shirt in New Zealand.

Alun Wyn Jones - The influential Jones missed only one tackle and led from the front with 14 carries, showing why it would be no surprise if Gatland names the towering lock as captain.

Bad week

Dylan Hartley - After serving a six-week ban for striking Sean O'Brien, England captain Hartley looked like a man who was short of game time. Jamie George made a big difference when he replaced the skipper early in the second half and might well be starting against Wales next weekend if Hartley was not England's leader.

Rory Best - Best was another hooker who failed to hit the ground running. The experienced Ulster man took responsibility for a third Scotland try scored by Alex Dunbar, who was left with a simple finish after plucking a lineout and admitted Ireland fell way short in the first half.

Dan Biggar - A blow to the ribs took the wind out of Biggar's sails at Stadio Olimpico, cutting short his afternoon. Leigh Halfpenny scored 18 points with an impressive kicking exhibition, but Gatland needed no reminder of his ability from the tee.