Former Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips has selected four Irish players to start for the British and Irish Lions against South Africa this summer.
Philips, who toured with the Lions in 2009 and 2013, revealed his team selection to Sky Sports, and has made a number of surprising selections.
Perhaps the most bold call of his is to select 23-year-old Ireland hooker Ronan Kelleher, who is currently embroiled in a contest with Rob Herring over a starting position for his country.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) February 28, 2021
The Welshman went with Kelleher as he believes “he looks a machine for Ireland” but reckons that Wales hooker Ken Owens would also be a fine selection at hooker.
Phillips has left out young Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit, but did note that the 20-year-old still had time to play his way into the starting team.
“Louis Rees-Zammit is probably the best example of someone who could be a bolter. He’s exciting and he’s lit it up since he’s been playing for Wales. He’s still got a lot to learn defensively, but I think he’ll definitely get on the tour.
“Whether he would be a Test starter remains to be seen, but hopefully he can play his way into that side,” Phillips commented.
‘Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell have stood out’
Elsewhere, Phillips has gone for two Scots to start for the Lions, and has left out the likes of England captain Owen Farrell and Ireland captain Johnny Sexton when it comes down to the 10 shirt.
“For Scotland, Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell have stood out. I really hope Finn Russell goes because he’s done well for Racing 92 and I watched him in the European Cup final against Exeter Chiefs where he was superb, creating so much,” Phillips said.
“He’s a definite pick and he’s a point of difference. He can create for others and for himself, and he’s great to watch.
“He’s a bit more accurate and correct now as well; maybe before he felt he had to force it and playing for Scotland down the years there hasn’t been the talent outside him.”
Mike Phillips’ starting Lions XV
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12. Manu Tuilagi (England)
11. Josh Adams (Wales)
10. Finn Russell (Scotland)
9. Tomos Williams (Wales)
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
2. Ronan Kelleher (Ireland)
3. Kyle Sinckler (England)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales, captain)
6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)