British and Irish Lions contenders for 2021 South Africa tour: Back-row | Rugby Union News

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Hamish Watson, Taulupe Faletau and Tom Curry are in the frame. Below, we look at the back-row options for the Lions...

Hamish Watson, Taulupe Faletau and Tom Curry are within the body. Below, we have a look at the back-row choices for the Lions…

We look by way of the contenders for the 2021 British and Irish Lions back-row positions, and who Warren Gatland is perhaps taking a look at when it comes to blindside flanker, openside flanker and No 8…

Blindside Flanker

On the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand, the No 6 shirt was shared between Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony and Wales’ Sam Warburton, after Sean O’Brien had made the openside flanker jersey his personal. Ireland’s CJ Stander additionally emerged off the bench to play on the blindside within the third Test.

With Warburton now retired and O’Mahony seemingly out of the body – a dangerous Six Nations purple card costing him possibilities to impress – there’ll probably be contemporary faces in with a shout of claiming the blindside position.

Below, we look into some of the key contenders for Lions back-row selection in next week's squad

Below, we glance into a few of the key contenders for Lions back-row choice in subsequent week’s squad

Tom Curry (Sale Sharks and England; Test caps: 32)

In a place which has maybe seen essentially the most alterations between the 4 nations in current instances, Curry has floated between 6 and seven for England, in tandem with Sam Underhill (an out-and-out openside) and the likes of Mark Wilson or Courtney Lawes (each of whom have featured predominately on the blindside).

Taking under consideration his type of the previous couple of years, Curry would seem a shoo-in to journey with the Lions, and such are his excellent breakdown expertise, energy involved, power and work ethic in defence, he has a fantastic likelihood of claiming a Test spot too.

Tadhg Beirne (Munster and Ireland; Test caps: 22)

Predominately a second row, there’s a sturdy chance Beirne may characteristic on the blindside for the Lions this summer time.

The Irishman’s work on the breakdown units him aside from most others within the sport, at Test or membership stage, and the best way and frequency with which he poaches ball has been like a flanker. During the 2021 Six Nations, Beirne was one of many gamers of the championship, placing in a stream of sensationally constant shows.

With a number of different second-row choices, Beirne has the tempo, dynamism and breakdown qualities to excel at 6, whereas it might additionally hand the Lions an extra specialist lineout operator, and extra weight and energy towards the Boks’ sizeable pack. Either method, Beirne is a certainty to tour.

Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues and Wales; Test caps: 28)

Up towards it to make the tour, Navidi is nonetheless worthy of dialogue as a consequence of his excellent performances for Wales.

Whenever match and known as upon, the 30-year-old has impressed at Test stage within the back-row as an actual all-rounder, and regardless of taking part in simply as soon as in 2020 as a consequence of concussion, he returned in 2021 in implausible bodily form. Gatland will know greater than most what Navidi can carry.

Openside Flanker

As talked about above, the 7 shirt was dominated by Ireland’s O’Brien on the 2017 tour to New Zealand, however having not performed Test rugby since 2019, and having picked up a couple of accidents with London Irish, O’Brien just isn’t within the dialog to tour this time round.

Justin Tipuric (Ospreys and Wales; Test caps: 85; British and Irish Lions excursions: 2013, 2017).

Be it in his customary openside position, or on the blindside, Wales’ Tipuric has been one of many type gamers in Europe once more during the last 12 months or so.

A phenomenally proficient rugby participant, Tipuric possesses the tempo and ball-playing expertise of a again, however the energy of a ahead. His performances for Wales beneath Wayne Pivac have been instrumental of their revival.

A two-time Lions vacationer prior to now, the 31-year-old has solely featured in a single Test match, such has been the calibre of different touring gamers. In 2021, count on him to be a key man.

Hamish Watson (Edinburgh and Scotland; Test caps: 41)

A person a lot talked about – and criticised – in different pages, owing to a perceived lack of comparable measurement, Watson’s performances in 2021 have been greater than worthy of his successful the Six Nations participant of the match.

The 29-year-old has by no means been a Lion earlier than, however his performances in recent times have given him a fantastic alternative of incomes a call-up this time round.

At 6’1″ and 103kg, the notion that Watson is too small or lightweight to take on the Springboks is, quite frankly, ludicrous. His exceptional breakdown attributes, huge power in contact and deceptive pace mark him out as perhaps the standout natural openside to tour.

Josh van der Flier (Leinster and Ireland; Test caps: 31)

Were it not for Will Connors’ untimely injury playing for Ireland, his name and not Van der Flier’s would almost certainly be spoken about here. Indeed, were it not for Dan Leavy’s terrible injury struggles since 2019, he would likely be on the plane.

Van der Flier is an outside bet to make the touring party, but if selected, is someone who would not let Gatland and co down with his immense work-rate around the pitch. If he can help fire Leinster to a European Cup final, he might well be in line to travel this summer.

Sam Underhill (Bath and England; Test caps: 22)

If the Lions had been due to face the Springboks in the summer of 2019, there is no question that Underhill would be going, and probably starting in the 7 jersey.

The 24-year-old, who was so magnificent in England’s run to the 2019 World Cup final, has barely played any rugby in 2021, however, due to a troublesome hip injury.

There is no doubting, when looking into England’s 2021 performances, that Underhill was badly missed, but does he have enough credit in the bank to be picked despite not playing this calendar year? The flanker needs to go well vs Montpellier in the Challenge Cup semi-finals this weekend to have a chance.

No 8

Taulupe Faletau (Bath and Wales; Test caps: 89; British and Irish Lions tours: 2013, 2017)

The No 8 on the 2017 tour to New Zealand for all three Tests was Wales’ Faletau, who for almost a decade now, has been one of the premier performers in northern hemisphere rugby.

Faletau was a pivotal figure for the Lions four years ago, but after that tour, he played just twice in the 2018 Six Nations before then missing out on the rest of 2018 and all of 2019 – including the Rugby World Cup in Japan – through repeated injuries, including two arm breaks, a broken collarbone and knee complaints.

All told, between March 17 2018 and February 1 2020, Faletau didn’t play a single Test in a hellish period for the No 8. Since then, he was improved game-on-game, to the point at which in late 2020 and 2021, he has carried Wales to some victories and looked every inch the quality of player he was back in 2017.

Billy Vunipola (Saracens and England; Test caps: 60)

Vunipola had been in outstanding form prior to the 2017 tour, but was forced to withdraw through a shoulder injury, and as such has never been a Lion before.

Ironically, on the cusp of this Lions tour, Vunipola’s form is now perhaps at its most patchiest, while his club rugby on the pitch is currently at Championship level with Saracens.

With the monster carrying game and physicality Vunipola can bring, however, he will likely go as one of Gatland’s prime No 8 options.

CJ Stander (Munster and Ireland; Test caps: 52; British and Irish Lions tours: 2017)

Stander shocked Irish rugby by announcing last month that at just 31, he will be retiring from the sport at the end of the season.

Still one of the crucial constant performers round, the teak-tough back-row was included within the 2021 Six Nations crew of the 12 months most not too long ago, and in 5 years of representing Ireland has picked up 51 caps, barely lacking a sport.

Year-on-year he’s a prime service in each the European Cup and the Six Nations, whereas his breakdown work is now a key energy of his sport too. A 2017 Test Lion, there can be no sweeter method for Stander to bow out, than with a Lions sequence victory towards the nation of his delivery. Is he in Gatland’s plans although?

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