Jim Lyon – It’s an absolute outrage that they didn’t surprise us

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

It is interesting that in such a big week for rugby union barely a ball has been kicked, a scrummage contested nor a pass knocked-on.

As so often seems to be the case with sport these days, the biggest news was happening off the field.

At least, we have been told it is big news.

Once the Heineken Cup finalists had been decided and we knew that Dublin would be turning French for the day (well, with a hint of English, Kiwi, Aussie, South African, Welsh, Georgian, Samoan, Fijian, Canadian and Scottish) it was all about who was going where.

Which 37 players would become Lions and which towns and cities would become World Cup venues?

The former threw up few surprises.

Matt Stevens’ place on the plane might have caused a few raised eyebrows but not much else.

With the perception of weakness in Australian pack, the squad shows plenty of – that horrible word – physicality and experience (in some cases length of tooth).

From a Northampton Saints point of view, Dylan Hartley made the cut but Tom Wood did not.

Wood can perhaps feel a little aggrieved after some fine performances in an England shirt recently.

But when you look at those picked ahead of him it is difficult to see whom he should replace. Well, on recent form, there might be one but I think he is guaranteed a place.

The mere fact the biggest talking point was that a soon-to-be 34-year-old who has a history of injury problems and who retired from international rugby two years ago was left out shows how predictable the whole thing was.

The other big announcement came from the organisers of Rugby World Cup 2015.

Much has been made of the fact only six of the 48 games will be played in the north – despite promises to spread the word – and that only three of the venues chosen are ‘proper’ rugby grounds.

Much like the Lions tourists, though, was anyone really that amazed?

Bucks take precedence over balls in just about every sport so why would the organising committee opt to use, for example, Franklin’s Gardens with a capacity under 14,000 instead of the MK MegaSuperMassiveDome, or whatever it is called, which will hold 30,000-odd.

Even Saints have made that choice themselves in the past. That is perhaps a discussion for a different time, however.

So, in a big week for rugby there was actually precious little to talk about.

But then again.

How good was Jonny Wilkinson in that semi-final for Toulon?

And how impressive was that drop goal?

So maybe the most important things do still happen on the pitch.

And come to think about it, why wasn’t he given special dispensation to miss the squad flight to Australia?

And why wasn’t he persuaded to give it one last go?

In fact, it’s an absolute outrage that...