As the dust settles on Warren Gatland’s Lions squad announcement, Fred Blagden takes a look at the three players who may count themselves lucky to be on the tour to New Zealand and another trio questioning what more they needed to do to this season to make the team.
The Toulon fullback has been way off his sparkling best, his goal kicking, as always, has been fantastic but he has offered little else all season.
Defensively he is generally solid but can you really see the lightweight Halfpenny hauling down the monstrous Julian Savea or the fleet-footed Nehe Milner-Skudder if they break the Lions red wall?
Halfpenny is hugely lucky to be on tour ahead of Rob Kearney, Mike Brown and even Clermont Auvergne star Nick Abendanon.
The Australia-born centre has been playing very well for Worcester in the Aviva Premiership and he made an impact for England in the Six Nations, but very few people would have seen him in the Lions squad prior to the announcement.
Te’o is a powerful carrier and is in the squad to supposedly provide the Jamie Roberts-esque power that Wales were renowned for. Possibly a signal of the way the Lions will play.
Undoubtedly a class act, but the Saracens lock has played very little rugby this season for his club or country. After England won the Six Nations title without him, largely in part due to the outstanding performances of second row rival Joe Launchbury, Kruis is a lucky man.
He is an excellent lineout technician and if the Lions are to stand a chance against the All Blacks the set-piece will have to be impenetrable.
Half of the Scotland team can probably feel hard done by. The Glasgow fly-half though has been sensational in the Champions Cup and Pro12. The quarter-final against Saracens and Six Nations loss to England will have done him no favours.
Dan Biggar will have to step up to the mark if he is to justify his selection over the attacking talent of Russell and his English compatriot George Ford.
As mentioned before, the lock had a tremendous Six Nations picking up the Man of the Match award twice.
His hard carrying and disruption at the lineout have been key to his club’s fortunes this season as Wasps find themselves top of the Aviva Premiership playing some entertaining rugby built on winning clean ball.
Dylan Hartley led England to 17 wins under Eddie Jones and two Six Nations titles and funnily enough a series win in the southern hemisphere.
The Northampton hooker has been getting progressively better this season after starting rather slowly. Hartley must feel that he could have done no more to impress Gatland; a very harsh call to leave the hooker behind.
In all honestly there are far more losers that came close. James Haskell, Hamish Watson, Chris Robshaw, Jonny Gray, Simon Zebo and WP Nel can all feel hard done by.
Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena
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