The next article in the series analyses the options Warren Gatland has on the wings for the British and Irish Lions 2017 tour of New Zealand, with this instalment focusing on the Irish wingers available for selection.
Ireland – Keith Earls, Andrew Conway, Ronan O’Mahony, Craig Gilroy, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Niyi Adeolokun
The 29-year-old has failed to score in ten matches for Munster this season but scored two tries in the two Autumn internationals he took part in. A versatile and aggressive runner with
A versatile and aggressive runner with ball in hand, Earls has the experience of being part of the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa as well as 54 caps for Ireland, with 19 tries to his name. He did not play a part in Ireland’s crunch fixtures against New Zealand in 2016 and faces an uphill battle for a starting berth in the Ireland side for the upcoming Six Nations, meaning his chances of earning Lions selection are presumably slimmer than those ahead of him in the Irish pecking order.
The 25-year-old has yet to represent Ireland in a fully capped international test match but is selected for the upcoming Six Nations. He can cover the fullback and wing positions and is
He can cover the fullback and wing positions and is in good form for a Munster team looking to challenge in Europe and the Pro12, scoring five tries in ten starts this season. Conway will arguably need to start some matches in the upcoming Six Nations to realistically put his name in the hat for Lions selection.
The 27-year-old is Munster’s top try scorer in the Pro12 this season and has made 14 clean breaks (the most in the Munster squad), effectively capitalising on injuries to the Munster back three. Never capped by Ireland, O’Mahony is arguably in the best form of his career but missed out on a call-up to the Irish squad for the upcoming Six Nations meaning he is an outsider for Lions inclusion at this point.
In order to improve his chances of earning selection for the Lions, O’Mahony will need to produce some special performances for Munster in the months before June.
The Ulster winger scored 12 tries in 26 matches for the Irish province in the 2015/16 season but has only managed one try in ten matches in the current campaign. An agile and determined runner attacker with a quick turn of pace, Gilroy has made nine appearances for Ireland since his debut in 2012 but has not yet materialised as a first choice winger, with injuries hampering his ability to consistently contribute to the national side and the form of his rivals making competition for places tough.
He has the opportunity to earn a starting berth on the wing in the upcoming Six Nations but unless he can produce some high-quality performances, he is likely to remain an outsider for Lions selection.
The second most capped player on this list, Trimble has scored 17 tries in 69 appearances for Ireland, playing as an outside centre or winger. A powerful runner with ball in hand, the 32-year-old has scored two tries in six appearances for Ulster this season and is likely to see some game time in the upcoming Six Nations as he returns to the Ireland setup following a foot injury sustained in the 2016 Autumn internationals.
Trimble faces stiff competition for a place in future Irish squads with the likes of Adam Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin developing into high quality wingers. Despite his experience on the international stage, Trimble is anticipated to be an outsider for Lions selection but a strong Six Nations from the Ulsterman could change things.
The most capped Irish winger currently available for selection, Bowe has astonishingly started every international test cap he has earned – five for the British and Irish Lions and 67 for Ireland. He has scored 30 tries for Ireland (second only to Brian O’Driscoll’s tally of 46) putting him ninth on the list of top point scorers for Ireland, as well as a total of 86 tries at club level for Ulster and the Ospreys since his debut in the 2004/05 season.
A player with vast amounts of experience and a proven try-scoring track record, Bowe may miss the 2017 Lions tour if he cannot secure a starting berth for Ireland and produce high quality performances in the upcoming Six Nations.
Arguably the most controversial omission from Joe Schmidt’s squad for the upcoming Six Nations is the uncapped 22-year-old Leinsterman who has scored eight tries in ten matches this season, on top of his six tries from seven matches in the 2015/16 season. Byrne is a physical winger who has shown his abilities under the high ball as well as a natural rugby intuition in attack, often appearing on the Leinster out-half’s shoulder to break through the gain line.
Byrne has suffered injuries in recent seasons but looks to have cemented his place in the Leinster starting fifteen this season and combined with his prolific try-scoring record for the Irish province, he is widely regarded as a certainty to be called up to the senior Ireland squad in the near future. Despite being named in Will Greenwood’s starting 15 to face the All Blacks in June, Byrne is probably an outsider to earn Lions selection due to his lack of experience at international level – his form for Leinster in the coming months could change these odds though.
Another member of what is shaping up to be an exciting back line at Leinster, O’Loughlin has scored seven tries in 14 appearances for the Irish province since the start of the 2016/17 but is not included in Ireland’s Six Nations squad. A physical ball-carrier with pace, the 23-year-old is expected to earn a call-up to the Ireland squad in the coming seasons, but he arguably does not have the experience or skill-set at this point in time to be a realistic contender for Lions selection.
The Connacht flier scored nine tries in 19 matches in a title winning season in 2015/16 and has managed five in 18 so far this season.
A pacey option on the wing, Adelokun made his Ireland debut as a substitute in the win over Canada in 2016 but has not been selected for the upcoming Six Nations squad, being replaced by the likes of Tommy Bowe.
With Connacht currently in 8th in the Pro12 and out of European competition, as well as the fact that Adelokun is very unlikely to feature for Ireland in the upcoming Six Nations, the 26-year-old is unlikely to earn a call up to Gatland’s Lions squad at the end of May.
Graham Manditsch, Pundit Arena
The statistics used to write these articles were gathered from the data presented by ItsRugby ESPNScrum