Latest Lions XV pecking order much more positive for Irish players
"I consider myself lucky to play alongside him."
Four Irish players vastly improved their Lions chances over the past two Six Nations games while Robbie Henshaw is now pressing for a starting role.
Garry Ringrose was waiting to get on the Ireland team bus, on Sunday, when the phone was passed to him and he was asked for his thoughts on his team's win over Scotland. The Leinster centre stood up for James Lowe, held his hand up over an error of his own and teed us up for next weekend's clash with England.
Asked about his Leinster and Ireland midfield partner Robbie Henshaw, he lit up.
"Sometimes when you are playing with him it's like having an extra centre out there with some of the work he gets through. He's been unbelievable during the games, but it doesn't happen by accident with how hard he trains and prepares"
On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 5:15 below], Henshaw's Lions prospects - and those of some of Ireland's best performers - were discussed.
The first couple of weekends' action in the Six Nations saw Wales take two steps towards an unlikely Grand Slam and many of their players pressing Lions cases. That trend has continued in rounds three and four, but Irish and English players are starting to get noticed.
Maro Itoje and Tadhg Furlong (pictured above) both made highlight reels and Warren Gatland will be delighted to see them exerting their influence on games. Anthony Watson, another from the Lions Class of 2017, was excellent for England.
Since the start of a mixed bag championship, Irish players Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson have impressed. Against the flagging Scots, it was the usual suspects stepping up while Johnny Sexton has reminded us all of his worth in rounds three and four. Henshaw scored another try and was tireless at Murrayfield.
"Someone who keeps producing and delivering such a high level is Robbie Henshaw," ays Chris Henry. "He is someone who can't do any wrong at the moment. His kick-chasing was brilliant, as is his ability to run straight and kick the ball and they way he makes the difficult things look simple. He is bringing a seriously high-standard of rugby"
"Robbie has got to be in the mix for the Lions," Fergus McFadden adds. "I know he went on the last your, but he was more of a tourist and Gatland didn't really play him in the Tests [before he got injured]. But, in terms of a 12 that has been playing consistently well for the past 12 months, that's Robbie."
The current Lions pecking order, in terms of Test XV and back-up options, is much-changed from when England won the Nations Cup, in December. England's defeats to Wales and Scotland see their representation drop from 12 to four. Wales have gone from zero to seven, with Wynn Jones not far off.
As for Ireland, they remain at three representatives (from last December) while Scotland's Stuart Hogg edges out Liam Williams for the fullback spot.
Current Lions XV pecking order (back-up option in brackets)
15. Stuart Hogg (Liam Williams)
14. Anthony Watson (Louis Rees-Zammit)
13. George North (Garry Ringrose)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Jonathan Davies)
11. Josh Adams (Jonny May)
10. Johnny Sexton (Dan Biggar)
9. Gareth Davies (Jamison Gibson Park)
1. Mako Vunipola (Wynn Jones)
2. Ken Owens (Jamie George)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Kyle Sinckler)
4. Maro Itoje (Iain Henderson)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (James Ryan)
6. Tom Curry (Tadhg Beirne)
7. Justin Tipuric (Hamish Watson)
8. Toby Faletau (Billy Vunipola)