Former England and British & Irish Lions wing Ugo Monye says there will be more than enough opportunities for players to prove themselves before the 2021 tour of South Africa.
Monye has personal experience of rising from the fringes as he went from playing as a reserve for the English Saxons to starting against the Springboks when the Lions last toured South Africa in 2009.
The then 26-year-old not only scored an excellent solo try in the third Test, which the Lions won, but also finished the tour as the top try-scorer – with five scores to his name.
With over half of 2020 already lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, prospective Lions players will be concerned over whether they will be left with enough time to prove their worth before the tour gets under way in July next year.
However, Monye told the Lions website that while a few names may already be pencilled in for next year’s squad, there will still be plenty of time for a couple of surprise names to surface.
‘I got capped in November 2008 and ended up going on a Lions Tour with six international caps,’ Monye said. ‘There is all manner of opportunity and I think it’s a really interesting time.
‘We have seen players emerge in the Premiership and almost get capped this season – Louis Rees-Zammit is absolute lightning and I’d say he’d go well on a fast track in South Africa.
‘The impact that these players can have, I wouldn’t be ruling anyone out. There will absolutely be four or five players that are not on the Lions radar now that will be spoken about in regard to going on that Tour.
‘There won’t be many but there will be some guys that enter the conversation, but there is a big difference between being part of the conversation and being on the plane – that’s for sure.
‘No one knows what this rugby world in the next year is going to look like. But if we are able to get a full calendar of games, Autumn Internationals in whatever capacity, Six Nations as well as the domestic leagues and European competition – there’s enough games at a high level to be able to prove yourself.
‘So, for anyone who doesn’t feel they are automatic selection, it doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of games, plenty of opportunity to make a late surge.’
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