Ahead of Warren Gatland’s Lions announcement next month, the debate has been widespread as to the makeup of the coach’s final panel.
While a number of places in the squad are nailed down, many more are still up for grabs as Gatland begins to whittle down his options before deciding on the 37-man collective.
On BT Sports’ Rugby Tonight programme, Brian O’Driscoll, Larence Dallaglio and Austin Healey, all former Lions themselves, discussed which players might have either made a late push for selection in the recent Six Nations or could possibly do so in the upcoming rounds of Pro 12, Premiership and European matches.
The first viewer suggestion that came to them was Welshman Richard Hibbard, veteran of the 2013 tour of Australia, and while Dallaglio and O’Driscoll accepted that he was in good form for Gloucester, his failure to be recalled at international level and the likely call-up of fellow hooker Jamie George meant that the 33-year-old is unlikely to be going.
Attention soon turned to the wings, which O’Driscoll conceded did not have the strength in depth that perhaps the other positions in the pool do. When the suggestion of Chris Ashton was put to him, he said that as much as he likes the Saracens (and future Toulon) man, it wouldn’t be enough to see him on the plane:
“I love him on a fast track, that’s why he goes so well playing for Saracens on the 14. I don’t think so [for Lions selection] unless he scores a hat-trick at the weekend.
“I’m a huge Chris Ashton fan, he’s been brilliant in the Champions Cup. He’s been international wilderness, but I think there’s still just a couple of question marks around his defence that Warren Gatland won’t like.”
The name Jared Payne was then put to the panel. The Ireland back missed most of the Six Nations campaign, and they accepted that this could be a factor in Gatland’s decision, as could competition from England’s Elliot Daly:
“It’s going to hurt them that Payne only managed to come back for the England game. He did play well, he had a couple of horror moments, dropping the first couple of balls, but then he really got into it.
“If you are looking for someone super sturdy, you could do worse than going for him.”
Hamish Watson was suggested as a potential openside flanker option, but Dallaglio quickly shot that down as Justin Tipuric and probable captain Sam Warburton are virtually nailed-on as the two out-and-out number sevens, though he believes James Haskell should be taken on the grounds that “he’s a good tourist.”
O’Driscoll and Dallaglio were slightly coy on the subject on Wales centre Jamie Roberts being taken, but the latter seemed slightly more confident that English second row George Kruis could find himself on the plane to New Zealand
The former, meanwhile, finished by saying that Sean O’Brien needs a big game this weekend for Leinster in the Champions Cup if he is to force his way into Gatland’s plans, while ultimately he believes that one from the trio of O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander will be in the squad.
Who will be a Lions ‘bolter’? You had your say…
— Rugby Tonight (@RugbyTonight) March 29, 2017
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Read More About: Austin Healey, brian o'driscoll, chris ashton, cj stander, England, george kruis, Hamish Watson, Ireland, jamie roberts, jared payne, Lawrence Dallaglio, Lions, peter o'mahony, richard hibbard, Scotland, sean o'brien, Wales, warren gatland