"I think the two of them, quite simply, could be Test Lions in that second row" 6 days ago

"I think the two of them, quite simply, could be Test Lions in that second row"

"At least six of England's pack could all be Test starters."

This Saturday will see "different animal" James Ryan going up against "serious player" Maro Itoje at Twickenham, and both men will be out to prove their arm the northern hemisphere's form lock. They will do the dance again in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, but could well be packing down together on the Lions Tour.

When you hear such a line coming (above) from Ugo Monye, you initially assume they are the words of another proud man looking through (English) rose-tinted glasses. Then he reels off the names...

"England play a very confrontational, physical game," Monye tells House of Rugby Ireland, "and they're very good at it.

"Kyle Sincker is a Lion, Jamie George is a Lion, Mako Vunipola is a Lion. Joe Marler is not playing, but he's a Lion. He could be on the bench. Maro Itoje is a Lion. He's going to go. Then I like at the back row. Is Billy Vunipola going as a Lion? Is Tom Curry? One of the best in the world. They've got a phenomenal pack and their strength-in-depth is a joke."

Saying that, Monye is a big fan of Tadhg Furlong and [from 1:30 below] he spoke of another Ireland forward that will make the touring squad and, if his form continues, start the Test Series against the Springboks.

James Ryan is tackled by Maro Itoje of England during the Guinness Six Nations match in February 2020. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

"Whenever it’s England against Ireland, that rivalry and tribalism really does pull through," says Monye.

"I was there in 2018 when you lot rocked up and won the Grand Slam, on Saturday. That scar still hurts me! It does, do you know what I mean? I was there in Dublin, last year, when the (England) boys showed up and did a brilliant job.

"When I look at someone like James Ryan, I’m looking at a world-class player. And he needs to have a massive game. But, with top players, you look across at who you’re playing against and he’s going head-to-head with Maro Itoje. I think the two of them, quite simply, could be Test Lions in that second row, in the engine room.

"Ryan would want to have the game of his life, because he’s playing against quality. And Maro will also want to have the game of his life, as he’s playing against quality. So I think there’s plenty there."

Maro Itoje in action for England against Italy. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"When you name that English pack," Ian Madigan admitted, "it is going to be a tough day, but Ireland do have some weapons of their own... I haven't seen someone tackle like Will Connors before, the way he chops them down low, and they've got some quality jacklers in the team, in Andrew Porter and CJ."

Monye says him bigging up the English pack is in no way disparaging to Andy Farrell's Ireland team. He notes that even the guys that may have struggled against England, or English sides, of late will have points to prove.

"You've got Cian Healy, who is a Test centurion," said Monye, "and I also think that you may look at someone like Andrew Porter, who got a bit of a hiding when Leinster played against Saracens, earlier this year. He'll certainly want to right some wrongs. They're a proud bunch but I'm just confident in what England can deliver."


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Season 3 has returned with Ian Madigan & Eimear Considine as hosts. You can catch up on all our episodes from past seasons and interviews with Conrad Smith, Victor Matfield, Simon Zebo, Sean O'Brien, Drew Mitchell, Jean De Villiers, Finn Russell, Mike Brown, Brian O'Driscoll, Tana Umaga and much, much more.