The Lions back-row – arguably the most difficult position for Warren Gatland to pick his best combination for the first Test against the All Blacks on June 24.
It is also an area of the squad where the Lions have the most strength in depth. CJ Stander, Sam Warburton, Billy Vunipola, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau and Ross Moriarty will all be competing with one another for a Test start. Maro Itoje and Iain Henderson can also fill in so there is certainly no shortage of options for the Lions coaches.
For many people, Vunipola is nailed on for the eight shirt while with Warburton being captain, looks set to fill in at openside, even though he played at six for the majority of the Six Nations. Tipuric started at seven during the Six Nations and his performances for Wales and for his club Ospreys have been incredibly impressive, characterised by a relentless work rate.
As of January of this year, Tipuric had gone 11 months of playing professional rugby without missing a tackle. After his season with Ospreys ended yesterday with a defeat to Munster in the PRO12 semi-final at Thomond Park, the numbers were crunched at it was revealed that the 27-year-old missed just one tackle for the Welsh region all season.
That missed tackle also came in Saturday’s clash with Munster in Limerick.
This kind of accuracy is undoubtedly something which the Lions coaches will be aware of and considering that Tipuric is a more natural openside as opposed to Warburton, there may room in the Test team for him yet.
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