Rugby | 1 week ago
Lions legend names two Ireland players that will definitely be on a plane to New Zealand
He knows his stuff

If we tell you a couple of Irish players are dead certs for the Lions, you may believe us.

If Martin Johnson says it, take it as close to read as you can get.

Johnson may have been responsible for Irish President Mary McAleese being forced off a red carpet, in 2003, but he has nothing but respect for Irish players that bring the fight. In a 2011 interview with the Irish Examiner, Johnson recalled the atmosphere at Lansdowne Road that day:

"As we went to line up to receive the kick-off, the crowd sang Fields of Athenry and that was... I’ve only had that once in my career, when the hairs actually stand up on the back of your neck, and that was it."

Johnson played in three British & Irish Lions tours and captained the home nations side to a 1997 series win over the then-world champion Springboks. As part of the build-up to the 2017 tour to New Zealand, the former England lock has been giving his take on the stand-out Six Nations performers.

Following last weekend's slate of games, Johnson has high praise for two Ireland internationals - CJ Stander and Tadhg Furlong.

"CJ Stander scored a couple of tries [he got a hat-trick]. Would he score those against the best teams in the world? That's a question, is that going to be as effective.

"But, yes, I picked him in my [Lions] team. He played very well, Ireland did what they had to do; Stander is a big strong guy."

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Johnson also notes that Stander's ability to cover positions across the back row makes him 'a very strong contender' to make Warren Gatland's Lions squad [named in late April].

As for Furlong, Johnson had the highest of praise. Asked if any of Ireland's front row that started against Italy make a Lions front row, Johnson declared:

"Absolutely, Furlong.

"We talk about lots of back row players but tighthead props are like nuggets of gold because there aren't many good ones. He's played Scotland, who maybe aren't the strongest of front rows, and again they are going to get tested against better scrummages, France and England potentially." 

Big tests to come from

The Hard Yards with Donncha O'Callaghan, Mike Ross, Pat McCarry and host Andy McGeady. Ireland v France previewed as Grenoble's Chris Farrell gives his insight on the French and talks about his decision to join Munster. Listen below or subscribe on iTunes.

Read more about:

Ireland, Lions 2017, Martin Johnson