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British & Irish Lions: Rugby Union Weekly squad selection summit

British & Irish Lions: Rugby Union Weekly squad selection summit

Date: Thursday, 6 May Time: Time: 12:00 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

The aim was to discuss, reconsider, compromise and finally produce one definitive 36-man squad.

Instead 2009 British and Irish Lion Ugo Monye and Rugby Union Weekly co-presenter Chris Jones agreed to disagree over their selections to tour South Africa this summer.

These are the controversial calls, left-field shouts and unreconcilable differences that made up their selection meeting on this week’s episode.

And for the real thing, join us from 11:45 BST on Thursday for live text coverage of the announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad and captain for 2021.

Back three

(differences in opinion marked in bold)

Ugo: Louis Rees-Zammit (Wal), Anthony Watson (Eng), Stuart Hogg (Sco), Liam Williams (Wal), Josh Adams (Wal), Jack Nowell (Eng)

Chris: Louis Rees-Zammit (Wal), Anthony Watson (Eng), Stuart Hogg (Sco), Liam Williams (Wal), Josh Adams (Wal), Jonny May (Eng)

Ugo: “I feel guilty about this pick. Jonny May was a world XV pick last year and not much has changed in 2021 apart from England and Gloucester struggling.

Jack Nowell

“Nowell has only played 100 minutes of rugby since the Premiership final in October as he comes back from injury, but Gatland loves him.

“Nowell is a good team player, a good squad man and, with his appetite for work and strength over the ball, he brings something different.”

Chris: “I think that Jonny May has come on so much as a player, you want him there. In November he scored that superb length of-the-field try against Ireland. You can’t tell me that much has changed.”

Centres

Ugo: Robbie Henshaw (Ire), Manu Tuilagi (Eng), Henry Slade (Eng), Garry Ringrose (Ire)

Chris: Robbie Henshaw (Ire), Jonathan Davies (Wal), Henry Slade (Eng), Garry Ringrose (Ire)

Ugo: “Tuilagi is only just coming back from a long-term injury but on his day he is one of the world’s best, a big point of difference and, against the world champions, that quality could be invaluable.”

Chris: “Part of me does want to select Tuilagi because there is a long time to prove fitness between the squad announcement on Thursday and the tour opener against the Stormers on 3 July.

“Without the injured George North as well, I realise I might be short of power in my midfield selection.

“But I think it would be a big gamble to pick a player who has suffered with injuries in the past and has been sidelined since September.”

Ugo: “You need to have Slade to give you a kicking option. Owen Farrell could, but if he is touring as a fly-half then then you need Slade to bring that dimension.”

Fly-half

Ugo: Dan Biggar (Wal), Owen Farrell (Eng), Marcus Smith (Eng)

Chris: Dan Biggar (Wal), Owen Farrell (Eng), Finn Russell (Sco)

Ugo: “People will be screaming at me for this, but if Biggar and Farrell are your Test fly-halves, your third fly-half has to be very different to the other two.

Marcus Smith

“You need a third-choice 10 who accepts that role. Smith would be over the moon to tour, has energy and vitality that will reverberate around the squad and can be the fulcrum of the midweek side.

“People are free to agree, disagree, be angry, but that is the thinking.”

Chris: “In terms of a Lions squad that goes down well with Scotland fans, Finn Russell being overlooked for an uncapped Marcus Smith would go down like an unsavoury sandwich.

“I would be stunned if Russell doesn’t go.

“We have got to talk about the fact that neither of us are taking Johnny Sexton – a modern great, the Ireland captain, the starting 10 for the second and third Tests in New Zealand four years ago.

“My thinking is just about fitness and durability of a player who will turn 36 during the tour.

“He has had three failed head injury assessments since February.”

Scrum-half

Ugo: Conor Murray (Ire), Gareth Davies (Wal), Danny Care (Eng)

Chris: Conor Murray (Ire), Tomos Williams (Wal), Danny Care (Eng)

Ugo: “Faf de Klerk is a real heartbeat for South Africa, and Gareth Davies is a physical, energetic nine who can get at his opposite number.

“I think he would be an unbelievable match-up to take on De Klerk.

Chris: “With [co-presenter of Rugby Union Weekly] Danny, I don’t think it is blind faith in a pal. There are legitimate reasons why he gets on the plane: he offers something different off the bench, he’s in good form, he’s in a good place mentally, he’s got loads of experience.

“He will also have the respect of the squad and be a good tourist. I don’t think that is a trite thing to mention in 2021. In this ‘bubble’ environment it is more important than ever.”

Loose-head prop

Ugo: Wyn Jones (Wal), Mako Vunipola (Eng), Cian Healy (Ire)

Chris: Wyn Jones (Wal), Mako Vunipola (Eng), Rory Sutherland (Sco)

Chris: “Sutherland is around four weeks away from fitness with a shoulder injury. If he can prove his fitness, I would take him. If not, I’d take Healy.

Rory Sutherland

“I think with Jones, Vunipola and Healy (29, 30 and 33 respectively) you are short a little bit of dynamism and that trio are ticking up in terms of age compared to 27-year-old Sutherland.”

Hooker:

Both: Luke Cowan Dickie (Eng), Jamie George (Eng), Ken Owens (Wal)

Tight-head prop

Both: Kyle Sinckler (Eng), Tadhg Furlong (Ire), Zander Fagerson (Sco)

Second row

Source: BBC

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