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Lions 2025 and Beyond

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BigGee
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Post by 123456789. Mon Aug 09, 2021 9:41 pm

First topic message reminder :

A general thread about the Lions moving forward, not intended to be a space for he said - she said bickering about the last tour.

My own thoughts are that Gatland is a Lions legend. The Lions were not in a good place in 2001 and 2005, coaches seemed completely unsure of how to operate an amateur concept in a professional era. Make no mistake, if the Lions had endured four more tours like '01 and '05 there would be no Lions. On three of the four tours that Gatland was involved in he was up against the world champions. On each occasion he was within a score of winning the series. To do that is a remarkable achievement.

Moving forward, I have seen reports of Gatland staying in post until 2025. I think that would be a mistake personally, there comes a time for new blood in any rugby side. The Lions are different to any other team but still. There are a lot of good young British and Irish coaches around. A lot can change in four years. Townsend is the best example, in 2019 he would not have been involved. Still I do wonder if the model that Harlequins stumbled on this year would work well.

In terms of how the Lions tour. I think it is time for the Lions to flex their muscles. Inadvertently the Northern hemisphere clubs are damaging the tours (not on purpose). Firstly, their financial power has damaged the warm up games as the Southern Hemisphere teams haemorrhage their best non-internationals. Secondly, the squeeze on the length of the tour meant the Lions had few games to prepare. That meant the Lions lacked serious opposition prior to the first test. It probably wasn't until Russell came on that the Lions had their best twenty minutes (not a dig at Biggar who had a fine tour). The Lions and the World Cup are rugby's flagship events certainly in these Islands and in the Host nation.

There is no easy answer to the warm-up conundrum, certainly it is beyond the reach of the Lions to address the financial inequality that exists. What they can do is wield the power they have within rugby for the better. Home warm-ups - panned by some - are one way. Fixtures against Japan and Argentina to kick off the tour in 2025 "at home" would provide meaningful opposition and allow those who can't afford to travel to see the Lions run out. Stopping off in the Pacific Islands on the way over too would provide decent opposition and mean a great deal to those countries. Longer tours would mean that this would not sacrifice the games against the provincial sides but would give the Lions stronger opposition and a longer run up. In the future, it may even be a worthwhile endeavour to play Australia as a warm-up for New Zealand.

In short, the Lions are integral to rugby both as a spectacle and financially. It's time they used that to their advantage rather than glorifying in the underdog status. They should wield their power to benefit themselves, their fans and the sport as a whole.

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Post by BigGee Sun Aug 15, 2021 6:52 am

Well Finn has pinned his colours to the mast. If we are going to play like we did this time around, he may not want to tour next time assuming he is fit and able to do so!

To be fair to the players, there is no way they could ever come out with stuff like this and Russell's comments are fairly measured, certainly no worse than stuff that has been said even after winning Lions tours.

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Post by funnyExiledScot Sun Aug 15, 2021 8:47 am

I just wonder how much of Russell's criticism is aimed at Toonie, who was coaching the backs and largely responsible for attacking strategy. They have previous.

Russell is a once in a generation talent. I just hope we can glue the Scotland 10 jersey onto his back for as long as possible. He'll be plenty young enough to shred the Aussies in 4 years time if the Lions want him (and Marcus Smith doesn't fulfil his potential).

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Post by RiscaGame Sun Aug 15, 2021 12:05 pm

No wonder Toonie chopped him before. Absolute disruptive shoitebag. Look at me, I’m super Finn and I got the Lions playing amazing. Believe your own hype son, fair play. Just don’t forget you had 70 mins and couldn’t get a test win.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sun Aug 15, 2021 4:55 pm

RiscaGame wrote:No wonder Toonie chopped him before. Absolute disruptive shoitebag. Look at me, I’m super Finn and I got the Lions playing amazing. Believe your own hype son, fair play. Just don’t forget you had 70 mins and couldn’t get a test win.

Not sure its too bad to simply state your thoughts afterwards. You could say it would have been disruptive if he'd been giving interviews during the season but he's kept quiet then pointed out the obvious. Personally didn't even feel he was that critical.

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Post by BamBam Sun Aug 15, 2021 7:41 pm

Well he's bang on isn't he, haven't most people on here been saying the same about tactics all series despite the first Test win?

While we're on the topic of in game tactics, I also find it strange how there hasn't been much criticism of not taking the points when on offer in the 3rd test, rather than the continuous kicks to the corner that weren't paying dividends.

Other captains have been crucified on here for those decisions, can't think why there hasn't been a peep about this one!

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sun Aug 15, 2021 11:32 pm

Simply because of who was making the decisions. Think Murray also chose 1 kick to the corner before then changing to take the points. Given the cautious nature of the rest of the plan was odd though. Came off twice in 3 games though and the captain received a lot of plaudits for those. Not sure how much Gatland gives free reign for players to change things up though and how much was him or the coaches. There never seems to be much change from the game plan for instance and when Russell changed things up after 12 mins there seemed to be distinct instructions at half time to tighten things again.


For me I don't like to judge too much based of the result of the decision. I thought Robshaw was probably correct in going for the corner for instance in the world cup.

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Post by Lowlandbrit Mon Aug 16, 2021 3:06 am

No 7&1/2 wrote:I thought Robshaw was probably correct in going for the corner for instance in the world cup.
Same here, always like seeing teams go for the win and play instead of just hoping to get one more kick than the other team.

In this case, didn't it work the first time and then only fail the second time because of a stupid penalty? If they score there what does that do to the Bok forwards? Last one was a bit more questionable though.

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Post by mikey_dragon Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:44 am

After most matches, Robshaw would be very high in all the stats from what I can remember. At times I thought was a very good captain, but mostly I thought he probably wasn’t the right choice. I seem to remember it was his own lot criticising him for that World Cup game. The incident I thought he got very wrong was England’s first match against Aus under Stuart Lancaster, where England were 4 points behind and he opted for goal, there wasn’t a lot of time left. Even the aussies were laughing. England went on to beat NZ during that autumn though.

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Post by RiscaGame Mon Aug 16, 2021 11:37 am

BamBam wrote:Well he's bang on isn't he, haven't most people on here been saying the same about tactics all series despite the first Test win?

While we're on the topic of in game tactics, I also find it strange how there hasn't been much criticism of not taking the points when on offer in the 3rd test, rather than the continuous kicks to the corner that weren't paying dividends.

Other captains have been crucified on here for those decisions, can't think why there hasn't been a peep about this one!

Because the captain got rewarded once and should’ve the second time, bar some imbecile giving away a silly penalty as the maul went towards the line.

But yeah mate, it was the captain that did it. Not biased in your viewpoint at all. Not once have you shown your thoughts about the captain. Haha

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Post by Rugby Fan Mon Aug 16, 2021 3:03 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:The incident I thought he got very wrong was England’s first match against Aus under Stuart Lancaster, where England were 4 points behind and he opted for goal, there wasn’t a lot of time left. Even the aussies were laughing. England went on to beat NZ during that autumn though.
I think you are mixing up two matches. That 2012 game against Australia finished 14-20, and there was no score by either side in the last half hour. One of the last England penalties was a quick tap from which Waldrom almost scored to win. If anything, Robshaw was criticized for not taking points when they were on offer, which probably contributed to his mistake in the next match.

The game against South Africa finished 15-16. The final England penalty came on the 78th minute, with the score at 12-16. It was in front of the posts, and Robshaw decided England could get three, and still have time to get back, try for another three. It was not the right choice, and baffled the crowd. To make it worse, Owen Farrell challenged the idea while the clock was running down, so time was almost up when South Africa kicked off.

As it turned out, South Africa kicked the ball straight out, which would have given England great position from a scrum on halfway, and maybe saved England and Robshaw's bacon. However, no-one told Mouritz Botha it was going out, so he jumped up and took it before it did. That meant England had to attack from much further back, and soon knocked it on to end the game.

Those two frustrating losses were forgotten almost immediately, because, as you say, England beat New Zealand the following week, and all was forgiven. Still, the faultlines in decision-making were there.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon Aug 16, 2021 4:30 pm

RiscaGame wrote:
BamBam wrote:Well he's bang on isn't he, haven't most people on here been saying the same about tactics all series despite the first Test win?

While we're on the topic of in game tactics, I also find it strange how there hasn't been much criticism of not taking the points when on offer in the 3rd test, rather than the continuous kicks to the corner that weren't paying dividends.

Other captains have been crucified on here for those decisions, can't think why there hasn't been a peep about this one!

Because the captain got rewarded once and should’ve the second time, bar some imbecile giving away a silly penalty as the maul went towards the line.

But yeah mate, it was the captain that did it. Not biased in your viewpoint at all. Not once have you shown your thoughts about the captain. Haha

And the guy who couldn't catch the next lineout. Don't think we used him much over the series though.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon Aug 16, 2021 5:41 pm

Looks like Gatland may get another series win then...
https://www.ruck.co.uk/springboks-could-be-stripped-of-british-irish-lions-win/

Obviously won't happen but I do think wr will be tempted to throw the book at Erasmus to discourage such incidents in the future.

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Post by Old Man Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:14 pm

I doubt WR would want to open that can of worms to be honest. The legal battle that will ensue could be catastrophic to the image of Rugby Union.

SA rugby will go back to previous situations where public condemnation of referees made big waves and how those involved went unpunished.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:22 pm

I don't remember anything to that scale.

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Post by Old Man Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:30 pm

Nope, not that scale, but there have been some significant influences in matches because of refereeing performances aired in public.

The biggest one from a South African perspective was Bryce Lawrence, who was so heavily criticised by RA after Ireland beat them in the 2011 RWC that Bryce Lawrence folded in the next match he officiated, OZ vs SA, he even admitted he froze, he went into obscurity after that.

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Post by The Oracle Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:32 pm

Strip them of the win?! Good god, no. Why punish the players for the coaches actions??? Just reprimand the coach and make sure coaches can’t go that far in future.
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Post by BamBam Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:42 pm

RiscaGame wrote:
BamBam wrote:Well he's bang on isn't he, haven't most people on here been saying the same about tactics all series despite the first Test win?

While we're on the topic of in game tactics, I also find it strange how there hasn't been much criticism of not taking the points when on offer in the 3rd test, rather than the continuous kicks to the corner that weren't paying dividends.

Other captains have been crucified on here for those decisions, can't think why there hasn't been a peep about this one!

Because the captain got rewarded once and should’ve the second time, bar some imbecile giving away a silly penalty as the maul went towards the line.

But yeah mate, it was the captain that did it. Not biased in your viewpoint at all. Not once have you shown your thoughts about the captain. Haha

Well I thought we were all about the outcome of decisions on here, not the decision itself? Most of your lot were queuing up to stick the boot in to Robshaw (as one example) with great glee so I thought the same should apply here!

After all, given the captain was pretty much only in the team for his leadership and captaincy, if he can't lead his teammates well enough to stop them giving away silly penalties then what was he in the team for? Or again does that only apply to other nations captains?

Obviously you're completely independent in your thoughts about the captain so they're much more valid than any others!

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Post by mikey_dragon Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:44 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
mikey_dragon wrote:The incident I thought he got very wrong was England’s first match against Aus under Stuart Lancaster, where England were 4 points behind and he opted for goal, there wasn’t a lot of time left. Even the aussies were laughing. England went on to beat NZ during that autumn though.
I think you are mixing up two matches. That 2012 game against Australia finished 14-20, and there was no score by either side in the last half hour. One of the last England penalties was a quick tap from which Waldrom almost scored to win. If anything, Robshaw was criticized for not taking points when they were on offer, which probably contributed to his mistake in the next match.

The game against South Africa finished 15-16. The final England penalty came on the 78th minute, with the score at 12-16. It was in front of the posts, and Robshaw decided England could get three, and still have time to get back, try for another three. It was not the right choice, and baffled the crowd. To make it worse, Owen Farrell challenged the idea while the clock was running down, so time was almost up when South Africa kicked off.

As it turned out, South Africa kicked the ball straight out, which would have given England great position from a scrum on halfway, and maybe saved England and Robshaw's bacon. However, no-one told Mouritz Botha it was going out, so he jumped up and took it before it did. That meant England had to attack from much further back, and soon knocked it on to end the game.

Those two frustrating losses were forgotten almost immediately, because, as you say, England beat New Zealand the following week, and all was forgiven. Still, the faultlines in decision-making were there.

Yes I might be getting them mixed up. Well remembered.

It was a good win and a very good NZ team too.

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Post by mikey_dragon Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:49 pm

BamBam wrote:After all, given the captain was pretty much only in the team for his leadership and captaincy, if he can't lead his teammates well enough to stop them giving away silly penalties then what was he in the team for? Or again does that only apply to other nations captains?

Oh dear.

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Post by BamBam Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:51 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:
RiscaGame wrote:
BamBam wrote:Well he's bang on isn't he, haven't most people on here been saying the same about tactics all series despite the first Test win?

While we're on the topic of in game tactics, I also find it strange how there hasn't been much criticism of not taking the points when on offer in the 3rd test, rather than the continuous kicks to the corner that weren't paying dividends.

Other captains have been crucified on here for those decisions, can't think why there hasn't been a peep about this one!

Because the captain got rewarded once and should’ve the second time, bar some imbecile giving away a silly penalty as the maul went towards the line.

But yeah mate, it was the captain that did it. Not biased in your viewpoint at all. Not once have you shown your thoughts about the captain. Haha

And the guy who couldn't catch the next lineout. Don't think we used him much over the series though.

Can't think why we wouldn't use such a peak specimen of a line out forward at such a key time

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Post by mikey_dragon Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:54 pm

Old Man wrote:Nope, not that scale, but there have been some significant influences in matches because of refereeing performances aired in public.

The biggest one from a South African perspective was Bryce Lawrence, who was so heavily criticised by RA after Ireland beat them in the 2011 RWC that Bryce Lawrence folded in the next match he officiated, OZ vs SA, he even admitted he froze, he went into obscurity after that.

That was a shocker from Bryce Lawrence, even I can admit that. Rassie though, well he must have lost his mind. I don't get why he was so convinced that it was all Nic Berry. Surely anyone could make a video like that for any team (the Lions probably could have after the first test too) in any match. Rassie doing it to that extent and airing it all over social media is nuts and brought the game into disrepute. I didn't think they would deal with it until after the RC, unless NZ/Aus heaped the pressure on to get it done sooner.

I think stripping SA of the win is overkill though.

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Post by Old Man Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:10 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:
Old Man wrote:Nope, not that scale, but there have been some significant influences in matches because of refereeing performances aired in public.

The biggest one from a South African perspective was Bryce Lawrence, who was so heavily criticised by RA after Ireland beat them in the 2011 RWC that Bryce Lawrence folded in the next match he officiated, OZ vs SA, he even admitted he froze, he went into obscurity after that.

That was a shocker from Bryce Lawrence, even I can admit that. Rassie though, well he must have lost his mind. I don't get why he was so convinced that it was all Nic Berry. Surely anyone could make a video like that for any team (the Lions probably could have after the first test too) in any match. Rassie doing it to that extent and airing it all over social media is nuts and brought the game into disrepute. I didn't think they would deal with it until after the RC, unless NZ/Aus heaped the pressure on to get it done sooner.

I think stripping SA of the win is overkill though.


I still can’t figure out what Rassie’s motivation was for that video.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:11 pm

Old Man wrote:Nope, not that scale, but there have been some significant influences in matches because of refereeing performances aired in public.

The biggest one from a South African perspective was Bryce Lawrence, who was so heavily criticised by RA after Ireland beat them in the 2011 RWC that Bryce Lawrence folded in the next match he officiated, OZ vs SA, he even admitted he froze, he went into obscurity after that.

Yeah can't see that defence getting anywhere to be honest. Think WR actually wouldn't mind the prominence of the message that it won't be tolerated.

The motivation was surely demonstrated in the 2nd match and the citing process afterwards.

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Post by Poorfour Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:20 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
The game against South Africa finished 15-16. The final England penalty came on the 78th minute, with the score at 12-16. It was in front of the posts, and Robshaw decided England could get three, and still have time to get back, try for another three. It was not the right choice, and baffled the crowd. To make it worse, Owen Farrell challenged the idea while the clock was running down, so time was almost up when South Africa kicked off.

As it turned out, South Africa kicked the ball straight out, which would have given England great position from a scrum on halfway, and maybe saved England and Robshaw's bacon. However, no-one told Mouritz Botha it was going out, so he jumped up and took it before it did. That meant England had to attack from much further back, and soon knocked it on to end the game.

Those two frustrating losses were forgotten almost immediately, because, as you say, England beat New Zealand the following week, and all was forgiven. Still, the faultlines in decision-making were there.

I disagree. It was a valid choice, and I think calculated by Robshaw. South Africa had already kicked out twice on the full, England were winning scrum penalties and they had a kicker who could make a kick from half way. If Botha had just watched the ball properly, England would have had a good chance to win. If there was a fault, it may have been in not being clear enough to the players that that was the plan - but it looked to me like Botha had just switched his brain off.

Robshaw regularly made calls as captain that he would have made in the same positions for Quins and seen them come off, but the issue was execution. In the infamous RWC2015 match against Wales, it was the other way round: he opted for the corner not the posts (when with hindsight a draw would have been enough), but the team couldn't execute the lineout. If your team can't do the basics, it doesn't really matter what you decide as captain, but you're still going to cop the blame. (And the really stupid decision in that game was taking Burgess off to put an unfit Tuilagi on...)
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Post by R!skysports Tue Aug 17, 2021 12:37 am

I think back to the original question about the Lions going forward

I think they will continue, as they are a good revenue stream and usually a big spectacle for the game. They do need to work out the scheduling better, to make it work around the end of seasons.

I like the idea of some of the warm up games against tier 2 nations, as they will want to bring their A game and will give a sterner test of the squad.

On the coaches, I think 1 from each nation, with a head coach is needed, so that the wider squad has representation from people who know the players better.

I do despair that Gatland is being touted as a potential coach again, as his style of play is too limited and old fashioned. If he is the head coach, I think the damage to the brand will possibly be terminal .


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Post by RDW Tue Aug 17, 2021 5:32 pm

I've removed several comments - it's fair to say the entire rugby world is very much tired of the bickering and squabbling that has come from this tour.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:15 pm

These days if you're English you can't even agree with people without it being seen as bickering, these days.

So in the spirit of the thread another throw a dart in a board selection guess from xv Rugby (Alex Shaw).

'From Covid outbreaks and empty stadiums to brutally physical Tests and hour-long video rants, the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa is not something that will pass from the memory anytime soon, for good and bad alike.

The Springboks’ physicality, tactical nous and much-improved conditioning from the first Test were enough to secure the home side wins in the second and third Tests and deny Warren Gatland the final feather in his Lions cap.

The quality on and off the pitch of the series is up for debate, though the fact the better team won the series is not. The Boks, after a considerable amount of time out of rugby during the pandemic, reinforced their status at the top team in international rugby, something that will send them into the Rugby Championship and the November Tests buoyed but with a target on their back.

Lions squad
For many of the Lions contingent, this series defeat by the Springboks will have been their last tour (Photo by Phill Magakoe/via Getty Images)
As for the Lions, eyes now turn toward 2025 and the tour of Australia, with the invitational side the reigning champions in that particular match-up after the Lions recorded a 2-1 series triumph over the Wallabies in 2013.

Four years is a long time in rugby and there is likely to be a very different look to the touring squad that heads to Australia, despite every Lions cycle tending to bring back a solid returning core of players from the previous tour.

With that in mind, and an awareness of the titanic scope to be entirely wrong on this given the considerable number of variables that can come into play, why not take a look ahead to 2025 with The XV and debate what that touring squad may look like?

Starting at loosehead, at the ages of 34, 33 and 32 respectively come 2025, the trio of Mako Vunipola, Wyn Jones and Rory Sutherland are not going to be out of contention, but it is a position where you can be fairly confident of some fresh blood coming into the mix.

Vunipola will face a challenge for his spot with England from Ellis Genge, who many thought was unlucky to miss out on this Lions tour, especially after he took on a prominent leadership role with Eddie Jones’ side in the absence of so many senior players. If Andrew Porter’s rumoured return to loosehead also comes to be, he is likely to be one of the favourites for a spot too.

Other names to keep an eye on will be Beno Obano and Rhys Carré, whilst Bevan Rodd has taken considerable strides forward in his development over the past 18 months.

Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler
Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler could potentially anchor the Lions scrum in Australia (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
At hooker, you can safely write off a 38-year-old Ken Owens and Jamie George will be up against it to make it at 34, but Luke Cowan-Dickie, who will be 32, could definitely put his hand up, especially if he has not lost his dynamism in the loose at that point.

Rónan Kelleher will be at or near the front of the queue for a spot and the victor of Elliot Dee and Ryan Elias to be the successor to Owens’ starting jersey with Wales will be difficult to discount. Tom Dunn has been the epitome of consistency for Bath, while Alfie Barbeary, if he stays fit, could be one of the most potent players in the Lions’ armoury, whether that be at hooker or back row.

There could be potentially very little movement at tighthead in 2025, as none of Tadgh Furlong, Kyle Sinckler or Zander Fagerson will be over the age of 32 in four years’ time. Furlong might opt for a French or Japanese adventure at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season and Sinckler will still need to be offering his trademark ability in the loose, but all three could, if in form, return.

One wild card is Leinster’s Tom Clarkson, with the youngster highly thought of and surely part of the logic behind a move for Porter back to loosehead. Tom O’Toole, Leon Brown and Will Stuart would seem to be the other frontrunners currently.

Always difficult given the physicality of the position and the need for experience, but if you’re looking for some relatively unknown names, put Phil Brantingham (Newcastle Falcons’ loosehead), Fin Baxter (Harlequins’ tighthead and loosehead) and James Harper (Sale Sharks’ tighthead) on your radar.

Itoje should still be in his prime in four years’ time but it will probably be too late for Jones and Beirne (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Let’s go ahead and tempt fate by ruling out a 39-year-old Alun Wyn Jones and a 36-year-old Lawes in the second row, whilst Tadgh Beirne and Iain Henderson will both be up against it at 33, but certainly not out of the equation. Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill and Adam Beard, on the other hand, could all still be firmly in their primes.

Ireland and Leinster’s James Ryan would be the obvious first name to suggest here, given the surprise surrounding his omission this year, whilst Nick Isiekwe has quietly excelled in the hybrid lock-blindside role that Beirne and Lawes have so impressed in. Jonny Gray wouldn’t let anyone down and neither would Charlie Ewels, with both bringing plenty of set-piece nous and size at the position.

There are a lot of up-and-coming talents to throw into the mix here, with Ryan Baird, Cormac Izuchukwu and Thomas Ahern offering up a vintage crop from Ireland; Ben Carter and Christ Tshiunza carry the flag for Wales, and although a little older, not enough people have talked about Scotland’s Callum Hunter-Hill over the past couple of years. England’s cadre of hopefuls is typically voluminous, with Joel Kpoku, Ewan Richards and Chunya Munga all set to feature prominently over the next four years, as should senior cap George Martin.

The back row is another area where there should be plenty of change, with Wales’ contingent of Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi and Justin Tipuric all set to be midway through their 30s, whilst Hamish Watson will be 33 in 2025. Tom Curry, remarkably, will still only be 27, Jack Conan will be 32 and Sam Simmonds will have just turned 30, so they may offer some sort of consistency in selection.


Ireland back-row Caelan Doris could power his way into the squad in four years’ time (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Getty Images)
Conan’s Leinster team-mates Scott Penny, Dan Leavy and Caelan Doris could all be hunting down a spot if they can stay fit over the next four years, and Munster’s Gavin Coombes has arguably been the form back row in Ireland over the past 12 months. Jamie Ritchie may be the stand-out candidate from Scotland outside of Watson, though Matt Fagerson could yet join his brother by wearing the iconic red jersey.

There are rich pickings in England and Wales too, where Sam Underhill, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Taine Basham and Aaron Wainwright would all be conceivable options. Could Billy Vunipola fight his way back in? Or maybe Zach Mercer, if he continues to excel upon moving to France? Alex Dombrandt and Ross Moriarty would flesh out the physicality of the back row as well.

As with the front rows, if you are looking for some potential fast risers over the next four years, mark down Munster’s Alex Kendellen, Scarlets’ Carwyn Tuipulotu and Gloucester’s Jack Clement as potential bolters.

Tomos Williams
Tomos Williams is a frontrunner for a scrum-half place on the next tour (Photo by Ashley Western/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ali Price, at 28 currently, would be the strong favourite to continue at No9 for the Lions, with Conor Murray and Gareth Davies potentially having played their final Lions tour. This would open up space for Tomos Williams, another contentious omission this year, as well as Dan Robson or Ben Spencer.

Ulster’s Nathan Doak and Munster’s Craig Casey are both notable prospects, and Jamie Dobie will put plenty of heat on Price for his starting spot with Scotland. Don’t dismiss Raffi Quirke or Jack van Poortvliet either, though they will need to push out Faf de Klerk and Ben Youngs respectively for playing time.

The leading candidate at the moment to fill the fly-half void would be Marcus Smith, with the prodigious talent having guided Harlequins to the Gallagher Premiership title as well as impressing on debut for England.

The Lions don’t shy away from veteran leadership at No10, so don’t rule out Owen Farrell or Finn Russell, though, at 35, it could be a tour too far for Dan Biggar. The leading candidate at the moment to fill the fly-half void would be Marcus Smith, with the prodigious talent having guided Harlequins to the Gallagher Premiership title as well as impressing on debut for England.

George Ford will still be in the mix, as could Joey Carbery, although debate will remain as to whether 10 or 15 is his best position. That said, versatility is always a bonus when it comes to making a Lions squad. It’s easy to see Ioan Lloyd pushing to be involved as well and also brings that cover at other positions.

Elliot Daly and Robbie Henshaw will likely both back themselves to be involved in another tour, but the rest of the centre spots could open up over the next four years. If Cameron Redpath can solidify his role with Scotland, he could be in the mix, as could English No13s Joe Marchant and Ollie Lawrence, who will be going head to head with Garry Ringrose.

Wales’ Owen Watkin would offer physicality, as would the up-and-coming Mason Grady with the right development and opportunities over the next few years. If Dan Kelly can continue to be a part of Leicester Tigers’ resurgence, don’t ignore him either.

Finally, we come to the back three. Stuart Hogg and Liam Williams will be 33 and 34 respectively, so not out of the question, although their battle will be with Father Time as much as it is with their positional rivals. Josh Adams, Duhan van der Merwe and Anthony Watson are all still young enough to be among the favourites to return, whilst the sky is the limit for Louis Rees-Zammit.

Freddie Steward
Leicester and England’s Freddie Steward could outjump his rivals for a place at full-back (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
If he continues to play well and maintains his trajectory, Freddie Steward could bypass the very formidable competition of Hugo Keenan, Blair Kinghorn and Max Malins to nail down a spot as a full-back in the touring squad, whilst the Irish contingent of Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, James Lowe and Robert Baloucoune all have the ability to be in the mix.

Darcy Graham and Joe Cokanasiga are a nice ‘little and large’ combination to keep an eye on, Ben Loader is as talented as anyone in this conversation and Louis Lynagh has dazzled in Quins’ run to the title, not to mention adding a very intriguing narrative in Australia, where his younger brother has recently signed with the Reds.

If looking for the next Rees-Zammit, who can come straight out of school and knock on this kind of door, keep an eye on Cassius Cleaves. He has still got a lot to do to acclimatise to senior rugby, but he could have a fair amount of Premiership rugby under his belt by then.

British & Irish Lions squad for the 2025 tour of Australia

Loosehead props: Andrew Porter, Ellis Genge, Rhys Carré.

Hookers: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Rónan Kelleher, Alfie Barbeary.

Tighthead props: Tadgh Furlong, Kyle Sinckler, Tom Clarkson.

Second rows: Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Adam Beard, Jonny Gray, Nick Isiekwe, Ryan Baird.

Back rows: Tom Curry, Jack Conan, Jamie Ritchie, Ben Earl, Gavin Coombes, Alex Kendellen.

Scrum-halves: Ali Price, Craig Casey, Tomos Williams.

Fly-halves: Marcus Smith, Owen Farrell, Finn Russell.

Centres: Ollie Lawrence, Robbie Henshaw, Elliot Daly, Cameron Redpath.

Back three: Anthony Watson, Louis Rees-Zammit, Freddie Steward, Stuart Hogg, Robert Baloucoune, Cassius Cleaves.'

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Post by No 7&1/2 Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:22 pm

From the same place and from Graham Simmons:

'The second Test was the missed opportunity. One up with two to go and with the Springboks under a mountain of pressure, here was a shot to nothing. Like the brilliant, teak-thighed Jason Kenny in the Olympic Keirin final, hit the opposition with something they’re not expecting, disorientate them and go for broke. Instead, the Lions went with box-kicks and brick walls and got steamrollered. Yes, I grant you, we’re back to the outcome bias conundrum again but had the Lions been a bit more ‘Kenny’, who knows? '

'...whoever calls the tune in 2025, can we at least have something we can dance to? The heady romance and the harsh realties of Lions’ tours haven’t always complemented each other in the modern era but they’re not mutually exclusive; besides, if sport doesn’t seek to inspire, why do we bother?

And yet, back with the bears in the backwoods of British Columbia, there are no guarantees either way. In 2009, the freewheeling, try-high Lions tried to outbox the South Africans and lost a wafer-thin series 2-1 on the back of Morné Steyn’s last-gasp right boot. In 2021, the juggernaut, try-shy Lions tried to ‘outboks’ the South Africans and lost a wafer-thin series 2-1 on the back of Morné Steyn’s last-gasp right boot. Go figure.'

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Post by BamBam Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:20 pm

Cassius Cleaves is a brilliant name

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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed Aug 18, 2021 4:09 am

Realise its an article to throw a couple of left field picks in but I've never heard of him. After a search he had a hood highlight reel bit he'll really have to come from no where. But yes quality name.

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Post by westisbest Sun Aug 22, 2021 8:44 am

Gavin Coombes is a big prospect.
Broken into the Irish set up.
Expecting big things from him.

Injuries aside, hopefully be on tour in 4 years,
Like the look of Casey to.

Other names from an Irish perspective, James Hume and Nick Timoney.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:49 pm

I don't think this counts as bumping old threads but here goes.

A few more grumbles are coming out about the rugby served up in the summer and if there was any doubt that players (some) would prefer a fresh start with a coach it becomes clearer. We have Eddie Butler saying that Biggar, A Watson and Sinckler did not enjoy it to go along with Russel. We also have Henderson pointing out the obvious (using Lawes as the example) that form was ignored for the tests. Seems a bit of a cross road moment in rugby. The new law trials (horrible so far) seem to want to push towards a more free running style than pick and goes etc, grumbles in the media (which have some weight imo) that rugby is entertainment all point towards a rethink on Gatland.

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