May 11, 2021

Sports Legend

When is the Lions team announced? Key team decisions for the South Africa tour

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will announce his squad for the upcoming South Africa tour on Thursday.

There has been a lot of discussion among fans and pundits about who has done enough to secure a place on the prestigious team for the summer tour.

While each position was debated, there are some key points that have divided opinions due to the amount of talent to choose from.

The scrum-half jersey is one that has been at the top of the deliberations list, especially after Leicester Tigers and England star Ben Youngs withdrew from the competition last week.

Ben Youngs withdrew from Lions challenge
Ben Youngs withdrew from Lions challenge

What selection battles take place?

Scrum half

Youngs withdrew his name from the squad for family reasons, but Gatland still has plenty of players to choose from.

A player who has been shunned from his country becomes the unlikely favorite to make the squad – Danny Care of the Harlequins.

The England star hasn’t played in a white jersey since 2018, but having returned to peak form in the Premiership he has already been a part of many fantastic teams.

The no. 9 was named the Premiership Player of the Month in March and caught the attention of fans with a monstrous goal in a Premiership game against Bristol in the same month.

His competition for the jersey is high, however, and Gatland can only take three scrum-halfs to South Africa. Ireland’s Conor Murray, Scotsman Ali Price and Welshman Gareth Davies all have a chance on the jersey.

And England’s Dan Robson and Ben Spencer are two names Gatland will also have noted. The former Wales manager has a lot of options to consider and he will have to choose carefully as fans are sure to criticize in hindsight.

Murray could be selected by Gatland this week
Murray could be selected by Gatland this week

Last row

Gatland will be able to choose eight players to cover the back positions of the flanker and No.8.

What will be interesting to see is if Billy Vunipola is selected. The Saracens and England star has never played for the Lions before, due to an injury during the 2017 tour.

While many would argue that Vunipola deserves to be a Lion because of the player he has been, his form in the Six Nations has seen only one good performance from him.

A more certain choice for Gatland will be Irishman CJ Stander who announced his retirement from rugby earlier this year. If he’s selected to go to South Africa, this will be the last time fans get to see him on the pitch.

Given his stellar form this season, the Irish star should be on the plane.

Hogg will definitely be involved in the Lions tour
Hogg will definitely be involved in the Lions tour

Back three

Although the full-back position may be taken over by Scotland captain Stuart Hogg after an impressive Six Nations campaign, there are seven more players to choose from in the final three selection.

Wales Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams or England’s Elliot Daly may be chosen to replace Hogg to fill jersey 15, but the main battle in the final three is on the wing.

England have two star wingers in Anthony Watson and Jonny May, while Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit of Wales appeared to be in their best shape during the recent Six Nations campaign.

Rees-Zammit led an impressive Six Nations campaign
Rees-Zammit led an impressive Six Nations campaign

Who will be captain?

There are four main candidates for the role of captain; Owen Farrell of England, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones of Wales and Stuart Hogg of Scotland.

Jones was previously the team’s captain for a test in 2013 and is the favorite after leading Wales to their fourth Six Nations title in 10 years.

Whereas Farrell is a bit like Marmite when people watch him for the Lions Harbor Office.

Former Irish captain Paul O’Connell backed Farrell to lead the squad, claiming he was a peerless leader, while World Cup winner Will Greenwood left the Saracens captain completely out of his lineup team.

Jones is the favorite to be captain of the Lions
Jones is the favorite to be captain of the Lions

Since Maro Itoje made his England debut in 2016, there has been talk of him becoming the Lions captain one day.

However, his lack of discipline in the Roses Six Nations game against Wales changed his mind about giving him the honor.

Although he conceded five of England’s 14 penalties this game, he was also a talisman in their 23-20 win over France a week later, so there’s a chance the 26-year-old would be still in the mix.

And Hogg led his Scottish side to a huge Six Nations victory over France, the first time they’ve won in Paris in 22 years.

Gatland has a lot of decisions in his hands and it will all be revealed on Thursday.