As if the Six Nations didn’t include enough sub-plots, the spectre of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and all the accompanying speculation over selection will play an ever more dominating role as the Championship edges toward a conclusion.
Players who might now be considered as shoo-ins, could fall out of contention due to injury or a sudden collapse in form.
Take Dylan Hartley for example, last November he was considered to be the leading contender to captain the Lions. However after being sent off for striking Sean O’Brien questions began to be asked over his potential participation.
Likewise, Despite being the incumbent Lions captain, Sam Warburton could miss out on selection altogether if Justin Tipuric starts ahead of the Cardiff Blues player for Wales in the Six Nations.
There also exists the possibility of unheralded players or “bolters” demonstrating such form that they demand inclusion in Warren Gatland’s squad despite their relative inexperience.
In the meantime, all we can do is stand on the start line debating possible selections and combinations.
However, in an interview with The Telegraph’s Mick Cleary, Gatland gave an indication into what he was thinking, by name checking Robbie Henshaw, Gary Ringrose, Maro Itoje and Stuart Hogg as players who have already impressed.
While he wouldn’t be drawn on the captaincy, Gatland did however say that Hartley “has to contend with pressure, too, that of Jamie George pushing for his place.
As for Sam [Warburton], he’s got to get selected for Wales first and foremost. The captain has to be sure of his place. If he is not, then we will ruthless on tour and drop him”.
Read what you like between the lines…
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
On this week’s edition of the Oval Office, we discuss Ireland’s selection policy for overseas players, the England captaincy and more…