In all of the bolter predictions for Warren Gatland’s Lions announcement on Wednesday, few (if any) would have thought to include Kyle Sinckler.
The 24-year-old Harlequins prop, who made his England debut under Eddie Jones late last year but hasn’t started in any of his eight international appearances thus far, is reported to have done enough to impress Gatland ahead of this week’s big reveal according to the Telegraph.
Indeed, the forward areas were widely regarded as having the strongest competition for places, and while Dan Cole and Tadhg Furlong are seen as the most likely tighthead props to be brought to New Zealand, the last space was seen as potentially going to Scotland’s WP Nel – but the report suggests that Gatland will shun international experience and instead go for the youthful exuberance of Sinckler.
In a further surprise, the report suggests that fellow England international Ben Te’o is also likely to be given a spot in the squad. The 30-year-old Worcester Warriors centre also made his national team debut under Jones last year, but has at least started one of his eight games for the Red Rose.
Lions selection would fit in with Te’o’s rapid rise to the top. Having made the switch from league to union in 2014, the New Zealand-native earned an England call-up in May last year, six months after joining Worcester from Leinster.
The report goes on to suggest that Ireland and Ulster second row Iain Henderson is also in line to be brought down under. Joe Schmidt’s side were always tipped to have a very healthy representation in the Lions squad, though it seems likely that Henderson has been (or will be) selected ahead of compatriot and fellow candidate Donnacha Ryan rather than being picked in place of England’s Joe Launchbury or George Kruis, or even Alun Wyn Jones despite the Wales captain’s shoulder injury.
Gatland will finally put an end to the rumours and speculation on Wednesday when he finally delivers the squad, and there could yet be another few major surprises reported before then.