Four Irish players tipped for Lions Tour despite Six Nations defeats
"Those fine margins, you don’t really get second chances at this level."
For the first time since 1998, Ireland have lost their first two games of a Five/Six Nations championship. Despite that jarring stat, several of their squad are being tipped for the prospective [we won't go as far as 'upcoming'] Lions Tour.
Ireland have now lost to Wales and France and sit fifth in the championship standings. Should they lose to Italy, in Rome, on February 27 they would fall to last place and face some tough questions.
Asked if the opening defeats would led to some more experimenting with combinations and awarding of caps to young players, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell insisted each game will see his side pouring everything in to get back on a winning track.
Over the course of Ireland's two losses, there have been a handful of players that have impressed in one or both games. To me, in both games, they are:
- Andrew Porter
- Iain Henderson
- Hugo Keenan
Others that have done well against either Wales or France include:
- Tadhg Beirne (Wales)
- Robbie Henshaw (Wales)
- Josh van der Flier (Wales)
- CJ Stander (Wales)
- Rhys Ruddock (France)
While it has been great to be able to unleash Tadhg Furlong from the bench, it will be interesting to see if Farrell gives him a start against the Italians. If he does, it would be rough reward for Porter, who has really stepped up for his country over the past eight Test matches.
As for Henderson, he often gives us glimpses of this sort of competitiveness and bite so it was good to see it two games in a row. Both he and Cian Healy returned to give the last of themselves, in the second half, after going off for concurrent Head Injury Assessments.
Hugo Keenan looks set to see out this championship in the fullback role, on current form, but it was notable to see him getting swallowed up and the ball turned over off his carry on the final play of the game. England gobbled him up at Twickenham, last November, so taking the ball into contact and showing that fight to get a clean presentation is something he needs to improve upon.
While the likes of Louis Rees Zammit, Wyn Jones, Ali Price, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg all did their Lions chances no harm, over the weekend, it is not a lost cause for Irish hopefuls.
Following round two of the championship, Welsh rugby writer Stephen Jones suggested three Irish players
Ireland may be win-less to date but it's possible that their likely Lions contingent is rising not falling. Porter and Furlong major contenders at tight-head, Ringrose at 13
— Stephen Jones (@stephenjones9) February 14, 2021
Former Bath and England forward David Flatman, who now works as a rugby pundit, added another name to that list:
Still like Ruddock too for a bash fest against SA...
— David Flatman (@davidflatman) February 14, 2021
There were several replies, to both men, suggesting the versatile Tadhg Beirne could make the plane too.
Last December, Lions head coach Warren Gatland told us that the Six Nations would be the greatest barometer of the Test-mettle his squad will require if they are to topple the world champions South Africa.
League and European club form will be considered - giving hope to the likes of Simon Zebo and the Simmonds brothers - but Gatland will select the bulk of his squad from what he sees in this Six Nations.
For the sake of Ireland's players, they need to win two or three of their final games or many of them will have a summer at home to lick their wounds.