British and Irish Lions watch: Brian O'Driscoll leads the lines after thrilling Six Nations opener

by staff

Everybody is picking their "current" Lions team and I certainly don't intend missing out on that fun even if the normal caveats apply - there are five months to go yet and anything can happen.

Fitness and form is what counts and that is of course why the Six Nations remains the most important selectorial guide for the British and Irish Lions, the closest Test match rugby before the date of departure.

And what have we learnt after the first weekend of the Six Nations, other than two or three Italians would certainly be valuable additions to the squad if ever the Home Unions want to adopt them?

It's rugby's loss that we shall never see Sergio Parisse going toe to toe with the southern hemisphere giants on equal terms. But in the meantime he continues to do a magnificent job inspiring his fast improving Italian team.

On the subject of leaders, my £20 punt on Brian O'Driscoll captaining the Lions touring party, an investment I made the moment I heard his ankle operation had been successful in December, is looking good value.

There is not a lot more you can say about the greatest rugby player of the modern era except perhaps that to these eyes he is lighter and leaner than at any time since his early days at the turn of the Millennium.

Critics insist his pace has gone and I doubt if he will ever sprint 60 yards for a try again, but look at that score he made for Simon Zebo in Cardiff in real time. Not only was it a wondrous pass but the way he just dabbed the accelerator was very impressive.

In my opinion his captaincy is a no-brainer. There are very few certainties for Warren Gatland's Lions side but O'Driscoll is one and after having his reign as the Lions captain ruined after 40 seconds in 2005 by the wanton thuggery of Kevan Mealamu and Tana Umaga there won't be a more motivated sportsman on the planet come June.

It's a huge job and he's the man. It's O'Driscoll for me all the way.

Elsewhere it's all to play for. Leigh Halfpenny was my pick, just, at fullback over the weekend but Rob Kearney and Stuart Hogg were both excellent. This is a real position of massive strength for the Lions because Alex Goode will also mount a serious challenge in the coming weeks.

My wings are the hungry-again Chris Ashton and Ireland's new boy wonder Simon Zebo. The former is really beginning to motor again and the latter is a breath of fresh air on and off the pitch.

He's having fun and we should just sit back and enjoy whatever he comes up with next. Alex Cuthbert continues to impress and Craig Gilroy is another to watch. George North has it all to do, he's gone a bit quiet but no better place than to explode back into action than Paris on Saturday.

Alongside BOD in midfield I would still put Manu Tuilagi assuming he returns to action fully fit but Gordon D'Arcy is still going great guns and there were signs at the Millennium Stadium that Jonathan Davies is hitting his straps again.

I want to see a bit more of Billy Twelvetrees at this level before any rash predictions but he has made a very decent start to his international career.

Fly-half? Tough call but it's still Jonny Sexton for me - just - although Owen Farrell is breathing down his neck. What a showdown that will be on Sunday, it already has the feel of a final eliminator.

My scrum-half pick has been Danny Care but I happily accept that Ben Youngs is buzzing and has possibly nudged ahead again. In fairness to Care he will find it difficult to challenge unless he gets a start sooner rather than later.

Mike Phillips is one of my favourite players – the player of the series in 2009 in South Africa – but needs a kick up the proverbial. He has gone way too French and laissez faire for my liking and has it all to do. Look out for Conor Murray who is doing little wrong for Ireland.

Up front I see Cian Healey and Rory Best as straight forward picks at present although Tom Youngs and Richard Hibbard will keep Best honest while Dan Cole has nudged ahead of Adam Jones as the other prop.

Jones needs plenty of rugby to keep in shape and will get better as the tournament progresses. Second row remains very fluid. Donnacha Ryan is the standout for me with England's Geoff Parling and Joe Launchbury both snapping at his heels.

Richie Gray was very good in the loose on Saturday and that will come into play in Australia but ideally I would like to see a bit more in the tight from the big Scot. Again all to play for.

Back row is unplayable at present, a selectors nightmare but in a good way. The two stand out sevens on Saturday were Sean O'Brien and Chris Robshaw, neither of whom you would term a classic open side.

In Australia whoever gets the nod will be going up against either David Pockock or Michael Hooper, classic tearaways. Sam Warburton was more than useful for Wales against Ireland but his side looked so much more fluent when Justin Tipuric (below) started roaming in the wide spaces in the second half.

At number six Tom Wood is my choice but Ireland's Peter O'Mahony is getting better with every game and coming up fast on the blindside so to speak. Again another massive tete a tete on Sunday.

Finally Jamie Heaslip is just about holding onto that No 8 spot but it was good to see Toby Faletau back to his best against the Irish and very heartening to see Jonnie Beattie shrug off a couple of injury plagued years with a cracking performance against England.

He will only get better so Heaslip and Faletau will have to respond.

Brendan Gallagher's Lions XV, as at February 4 2013:

Leigh Halfpenny (Wales); Chris Ashton (England), Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland, capt), Manu Tuilagi (England), Simon Zebo (Ireland), Jonny Sexton (Ireland), Ben Youngs (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Donnacha Ryan (Ireland), Joe Launchbury (England), Tom Wood (England), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland).