Ireland great Paul O’Connell has identified the five players he believes are ‘nailed on’ for British & Irish Lions selection for the tour of South Africa later this year.
The Lions are (for now) scheduled to travel to South Africa for an eight-match tour, including a three-Test series against the Springboks, in July and August this year.
In the aftermath of a high-quality opening round of Six Nations fixtures, O’Connell, who formerly captained Munster, Ireland and the Lions, singled out five players he believes are assured of making the Lions squad for the highly anticipated tour.
Interestingly, there was no Welsh player in the group as O’Connell picked two Englishmen (Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell), two Irishmen (James Ryan and Tadhg Furlong) and a Scot (Stuart Hogg).
In an article published on the Ruck website, O’Connell wrote the following:
Maro Itoje (Saracens, England lock/flank)
‘Maro is obviously a world-class athlete, he is a phenomenal second-row forward. I like watching him play. I’m surprised he doesn’t give away more penalties than he does but he is always pushing the limits around the ruck, around the offside line. Brilliant at collapsing mauls, brilliant at stopping teams mauling.’
James Ryan (Leinster, Ireland lock)
‘There are certain players who can do certain things but there are very few that can do it all and James can do it all. He is nailed on for me.’
Owen Farrell (Saracens, England flyhalf/centre)
‘Farrell has that kind of abrasive attitude as well and is very experienced as well in terms of taking on southern-hemisphere teams, beating southern-hemisphere teams. He obviously had that tough experience as well with South Africa in the World Cup so, as we are talking here, he springs to mind.’
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland prop)
‘Furlong is still, for me, the best tighthead in the world.’
Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland fullback)
‘Hogg has taken his game to another level again with Exeter. I hope this tour can be a redemption for him after what happened in 2017.’
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