Springbok Eben Etzebeth has revealed the lock pairing he expects to start for the British & Irish Lions in the three-Test series against South Africa.
A Test veteran with 85 caps, Etzebeth is expected to be in the Springbok squad for the Lions’ tour of South Africa later this year despite currently nursing a finger injury he sustained at Toulon’s ground recently.
According to RugbyPass, the 29-year-old’s recovery is on track and he should be back in action next month.
Lions coach Warren Gatland has various options available to him for the No 4 and No 5 jerseys for their matches against the Boks with the likes of Ireland’s James Ryan and Iain Henderson, Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones, England’s Maro Itoje and Scotland’s Jonny Gray all in with a shot of making the starting XV.
Speaking as a guest on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod, Etzebeth has now weighed in on the topic, revealing who he reckons is likely to crack the nod in the Lions XV.
‘Probably Alun Wyn Jones. Warren Gatland, the coach, has coached Alun Wyn, who was captain of Wales for a long time, so I’m pretty sure he will be No 5,’ he said.
‘Then No 4 will probably be Maro Itoje, with a guy like James Ryan on the bench. It makes it easy for us to start looking at their locks.
‘It’s going to be a tough battle. There are some warm-up games for them and a few of their guys would want to play themselves into the squad, but for me at the moment it [selection] will probably go that way.’
Etzebeth was also full of praise for Itoje, who he believes is worth the hype.
‘What hype? He is a good player. I’ve watched him play, played against him a few times. He is a world class second-rower.
‘A good player and someone when you do your analysis you probably have to look at for an extra 30, 40 minutes because he gets around the park and has got a big work rate. There is big hype, as you said, but for me, he is a good player, a good lock and he is always good to play against.’
Etzebeth added he was excited about the prospect of the second row battle in the Test series, not just because of the quality of the Lions locks but because of how the Springboks’ lock stocks are shaping up.
‘For us, if all goes well the same guys will be there that was at the World Cup, those four locks. Everyone will be ready,’ he explained.
‘RG (Snyman) is back soon, back in training, and probably will have a game pretty soon. Franco Mostert never gets injured, he just keeps on going. And Lood (de Jager), he will definitely be there. He has had a couple of injuries where he has had to be back for important games and he never disappointed to make it back so he will also be there.’
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