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12th Apr 2021

Danny Care’s Lions XV only has room for two Irish players

Patrick McCarry

Danny Care

“I did a bit of a mix and match.”

Danny Care has already ruffled Munster feathers, this season. He is now in danger of cheesing off the other three provinces too.

The Harlequins and England scrumhalf has been a neat addition to the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly line-up, these past two seasons, and he is not shy in sharing his opinions, even if they sometimes prove unpopular.

Care was recently tasked with selecting the British & Irish Lions Test XV that he feels Warren Gatland should pick to face South Africa. It was a bit of a mix and match, he explained, as he went with some personal preferences and with the players he feel Gatland should give starting berths to.

Given how the Six Nations went – with Wales surprising most of us to win the title, Ireland and Scotland having peaks and troughs and England finishing fifth – many of the Lions XVs from December and January are well and truly in the wind. Care commented:

“If you’d have said to me at the start of the tournament, when Ireland had lost two games, that everyone would be saying Murray and Sexton should be your 9 and 10, you’d have thought they were mad. But then they played an unbelievable game against England and everyone goes, ‘Well, it’s got to be Sexton and Murray.”

When it came to his Lions XV, though, there were several changes to the team our House of Rugby crew selected. There was not much room for Irish players in Care’s team, either.

On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 8:30 below], Fergus McFadden, Michelle Claffey and Ian Madigan touched on a few Irish players that boosted their Lions chances at the weekend.

Danny Care has not featured for England this year but has been tipped, in some quarters, as a potential Lion. (Credit: Getty Images)

After praising Leinster and Ireland hooker Rónan Kelleher for getting the better of Exeter Chiefs’ Luke Cowan-Dickie – a potential Lions rival – McFadden focused on his case for the South Africa tour, as well as Hugo Keenan’s.

“Granted, Hugo missed an early tackle but he completely outplayed Stuart Hogg. He drew him in for James Lowe’s try and, for Jordan’s first try, Stuart Hogg probably needs to make that tackle. I think Hugo Keenan is putting himself in a strong position to be a bolter for the Lions.”

“It strikes me,” says Madigan, “when I’m watching him play that I don’t think teams realise how quick Hugo is. He’s deceptively quick… for that second try, Hogg is unsure if his winger is going to get him. It just puts him in two minds… Hogg has to check for a split second and then, at the last moment, Hugo delivers the pass.”

Will Connors and Hugo Keenan after their Ireland debuts against Italy. (Credit: Sportsfile)

While Leinster and Ireland fans will endorse that sort of talk, there is no room for Kelleher, Keenan, or many Irish players, in Care’s team selection.

Like just about every Lions XV we have seen, Tadhg Furlong is there at tighthead, in a front row with Jamie George and Care’s Harlequins teammate Joe Marler.

All told, there are seven English players in the scrumhalf’s selection, five from Wales, two Irish and Stuart Hogg as Scotland’s sole representative. He commented:

“At 9 and 10, I’ve gone for Conor Murray and Owen Farrell. I think those two, come the summer, will be the two they go to.”

All team selections have a dash of subjectivity in there, but it is surprising, all the same, to see Robbie Henshaw – a man Brian O’Driscoll rates as the form centre, with Gael Fickou, in Europe – omitted here.


15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
12. Manu Tuilagi (England)
11. Liam Williams (Wales)
10. Owen Farrell (England)
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

1. Joe Marler (England)
2. Jamie George (England)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
6. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
7. Tom Curry (Englnd)
8. Toby Faletau (Wales)

As we have noted before, you will never please everyone with your Lions XV calls. Even if you split it as fairly as you could between the four nations, you’d still have one set of fans griping that they had three picked, instead of four.

Warren Gatland will name his touring squad on May 6, and his coaches and backroom staff will be announced on Tuesday, April 13.


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