Round four of the Six Nations is upon us and as the championship builds towards another grandstand finish, former England and British and Irish Lions star Phil Vickery has a pop at predicting Warren Gatland’s selection for the summer tour of New Zealand.
Having toured twice with the Lions back in 2001 and 2009, the former prop knows a thing or two about what it takes to become a capped Lion.
Now Vickery has given his take on just who Lions boss Warren Gatland will pick next month for the highly anticipated tour to the home of the double-defending world champions.
The 40-year-old has no trouble in putting Owen Farrell in at inside centre, with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton making up the half-back line.
Despite their stuttering Six Nations campaign this year, Vickery can’t look past the Wales trio of Jonathan Davies, Liam and Scott Williams, seeing their style of play as in line with what Gatland will be looking for at the back.
Similarly for Leigh Halfpenny, Vickery believes his versatility won’t see him overlooked and he will compete with Stuart Hogg for the No. 15 jersey.
Picking his forwards is what’s causing the former England captain the most stress, however. Calling it a ‘minefield’ he feels there are still so many putting their hands up and it could go any way.
The recent return of Billy Vunipola from injury throws him straight back into the mix, while the Irish trio of CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip offer a massive unit at the back of the scrum.
Looking at Maro Itoje, who has been utilised as a flanker by Eddie Jones, has Vickery concerned about his prospects for a second-row berth, while Scotland’s Gray brothers are playing themselves into the mix and can’t be overlooked either.
Conceding that picking a Lions squad is ‘so difficult to do’, Vickery signs off by admitting:
“We’re not even there yet and I am already stressed about it, so goodness knows what it’s going to be like come, what, end of May.”
You and the rest of us Phil, but we can’t wait.
Video Credit: The British & Irish Lions
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
On this week’s Oval Office Podcast, Jacques Burger talks about his battle with depression, Benetton Treviso’s Ian McKinley reviews Italy’s performance against England and Daniel Killick of The Attacking Scrum tells us what’s gone wrong with Wales.