With the 2021 Six Nations now underway, attention is also on which players may or may not be performing well enough to make the squad for this summer’s British & Irish Lions tour.
Each week during the championship, Sky Sports will be asking representatives from the four Home Nations to give their verdict on who Warren Gatland could select to take on the might of South Africa this summer.
First up, former England Women star and World Cup winner Katy Daley-Mclean runs down who has made the biggest impressions for her last weekend and what her Lions starting XV would look like…
Who has impressed?
I thought CJ Stander went really well at No 8 for Ireland against Wales and if we are talking about going to South Africa, we are going to need to carry the ball well. I think the intensity and the size of the man, he just gets over the gain line.
Wyn Jones went well for Wales and for a prop he has got a bit more to his game that most – no offence to props out there!
I thought Maro Itoje went well for England, too. He’s always going to be in the middle of stuff, and he was a pain against Scotland and probably one of England’s best performers on the day.
Then we talk about people like Finn Russell; I thought Robbie Henshaw went well for Ireland and then Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg was by far the stand-out performer of the weekend.
Who could be a bolter?
I really liked Cameron Redpath at inside centre for Scotland, even though I know he is new to international rugby.
But if you’re looking at somebody who is not going to be fazed, a debut like that has got to give you some sort of confidence to put him in that extended squad and see how he goes.
I don’t think at the moment, for me, there are many 12s – unless you move Owen Farrell there and put Finn Russell at 10 – who are putting their hands up to go ‘come and pick me’ apart from Robbie Henshaw, so I think that position is very light.
For someone like Warren Gatland, what will be interesting to see is where Redpath goes from here. Obviously, everybody can have that first game, but can you then live up to the hype after it?
But, to be honest, he provides a real balance to Finn Russell. He’s the ultimate maverick, but to have Redpath as someone who is going to do the basics and carry hard for him just allows that really nice balance between the two of them.
Who still has work to do?
I probably want to see a bit more from somebody like Jamie George and Tom Curry as well.
The game against Scotland is not going to be one where the English boys think they have got their letter in the post and will be in the extended squad. There will be some out there who think ‘we’ve got to go well’.
The other thing I find fascinating is this tour is potentially a bit of a changing of the guard. The likes of Sexton, Conor Murray, Alun Wyn Jones have always been part of that cycle, but with their age it’s do you look to take them or bring in the younger lads who are starting to push for those places?
Katy Daley-Mclean’s Lions XV
Team: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland); 14 Josh Adams (Wales), 13 Manu Tuilagi (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Jonny May (England); 10 Owen Farrell (England), 9 Tomos Williams (Wales); 1 Cian Healy (Ireland), 2 Jamie George (England), 3 Wyn Jones (Wales), 4 James Ryan (Ireland), 5 Maro Itoje (England), 6 Tom Curry (England), 7 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 8 CJ Stander (Ireland).
My front row would be Cian Healy, Jamie George and Wyn Jones. For my second row, I’ve had players in and out, but Maro Itoje would be in there and then I went with James Ryan.
Obviously, he didn’t play a lot because of injury, but the form he has been in has been great. Alun Wyn Jones is always going to be in that mix as well.
I went with Tom Curry, Hamish Watson and CJ Stander in my back row. Hamish Watson, as much as he is a lighter back row, his work-rate is phenomenal and he couldn’t miss out.
I’ve gone with Tomos Williams and Owen Farrell as my nine and 10. For me, I had my head and my heart. My heart was put Finn Russell in there, but I just think probably in a game against South Africa he’s someone you’re going to bring off the bench for a bit of magic.
Owen Farrell is a very good runner of the game and if you pick someone like Tomos Williams who has a varied running game, him and Faf De Klerk could be one great battle.
My centres would be Robbie Henshaw and Manu Tuilagi. Obviously, we’re hoping Manu will get back from injury, but a ball carrier of his standard in South Africa is going to be huge. Then I’d have Stuart Hogg, Jonny May and Josh Adams in my backline.
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