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5 Lions Bolters Warren Gatland Should Consider

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 07: Warren Gatland is announced as the Head Coach of the British & Irish Lions for the 2017 Tour to New Zealand during the British and Irish Lions Press Conference at Standard Life House on September 7, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The British and Irish Lions squad often includes a couple of ‘bolters’ – players who have had limited international exposure and make a late and surprising claim to join the touring party.

So who are the candidates to be bolters in 2017?

For the purist, Will Greenwood was the last true ‘bolter’ when he toured South Africa in 1997 having not yet played for England. In more recent tours there have also been unexpected selections, such as Keith Earls in 2009.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23: Keith Earls of the Lions dives to score the first try during the match between the Emerging Springboks and the British and Irish Lions as part of their 2009 tour of South Africa at Newlands Stadium on June 23, 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

In Australia, Warren Gatland picked two more surprises. Shane Williams, due to commentate on the tour, was called up as an injury replacement from Japan, and Tom Court played in a midweek fixture when he happened to be holidaying Down Under. The lesson is that with the Lions, anything can happen.

Twenty years on from Geenwood, the development and professionalisation of rugby means that it is highly unlikely that someone could get picked for the premier representative team in the world without first turning out for their country. But this year could be a throwback to the 1990s.

Here are Pundit Arena’s five most likely modern-day ‘bolters’.

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1. Sam Underhill

The highly-rated Ospreys flanker would be the ultimate bolter. The 20-year-old back-rower is currently out injured, which is giving him time to crack on with his studies at Cardiff University.

CARDIFF, WALES - APRIL 30: Sam Underhill of the Ospreys scores his try despite the efforts of Kristian Dacey during the Guinness Pro 12 match between Cardiff Blues and Ospreys at Principality Stadium on April 30, 2016 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Due to England’s overseas player selection policy, if picked, Underhill would be uncapped before he wears Lions red. In 2017, that would be a bolter story worthy of Lions folklore.

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2. Garry Ringrose

Sure to be a star of the future, Ringrose has been earmarked as the natural successor to Brian O’Driscoll since he stormed to prominence during the U-20 World Championship in 2014.

It’s hard to believe he has yet to be capped by Ireland, but perhaps Joe Schmidt is cleverly managing expectations. That said, the Leinster centre is certain to wear green this season – something that will propel him into Gatland’s thinking.

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3. Steffon Armitage

As with Sam Underhill, Lions coach Warren Gatland may consider selecting a man England overlook for playing abroad.

BATH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Steffon Armitage of RC Toulon scores a try during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Bath Rugby and RC Toulon at Recreation Ground on January 23, 2016 in Bath, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Despite being the European Rugby Player of the Year in 2014, having not featured for England since 2009, the Pau back-rower would have to count as a bolter.

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4. Josh van der Flier

The latest in the seemingly endless production line of Irish flankers, two-cap Van der Flier will rival Underhill and Armitage for a back-rower bolter slot.

European Rugby Champions Cup Round 1, RDS Arena, Dublin 15/10/2016 Leinster vs Castres Olympique Leinster's Josh van der Flier makes a break Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

By the end of season he may have the physicality to match the likes of Jerome Kaino and Matt Todd at close quarters.

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5. Ellis Genge

In 2013 Warren Gatland took a bit of a punt on a young England prop who was excellent in the loose, but unpolished at the set-piece. That time it was Mako Vunipola, but in 2017 it could be Leicester Tigers’ Ellis Genge.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Ellis Genge of Leicester is tackled by Dominic Waldouck during the Aviva Premiership match between Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers at Kingston Park on September 18, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones managed Genge wonderfully on the tour to Australia, providing the youngster with an invaluable month in the England camp. Could the prop who converted from No. 8 make Gatland’s squad?

Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.