Three Irish players make Mike Tindall and James Haskell's Lions XV
Honourable mentions for four other Irish internationals.
This time next year - all things going well and World Rugby's calendar unchanged - we will be looking ahead to the 2021 British & Irish Lions' first tour game against the Stormers in Cape Town.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to major delays in most sporting calendars and the 2020/21 season will be truncated but hopes are high that big rugby games will be able to go ahead, with fans in attendance, later this year and on into 2021.
Signing off their second series of House of Rugby UK, host Alex Payne teamed up with James Haskell and Mike Tindall to select their Lions XV for the First Test against the world champion Springboks.
JAMES: Tadhg Furlong's got to be the main one. Maybe Sinckler.
ALEX: Tadhg or Kyle?
MIKE: We're going to have to pin our colours to the mast if we do this so I'm going to go for Furlong.
JAMES: Yeah, I think he's got to be slightly in pole position at the moment.
While the Scottish siblings Jonny and Richie Gray got second row mentions, all agreed on a combination of Maro Itoje and James Ryan to close out that tight five.
Back row, as it always seems to be in recent years, is stacked. Tom Curry is described as 'a shoo-in' for blindside flanker while Billy Vunipola got the nod for the No.8 jersey ahead of CJ Stander, Ross Moriarty and Toby Faletau. For openside, Tindall stated a strong case for Hamish Watson so he edged in ahead of Justin Tipuric, Josh van der Flier and Sam Underhill.
Moving to the backline, Conor Murray, Ben Youngs and Rhys Webb were all mentioned but Tindall believes Gareth Davies is leading the scrumhalf battle. Owen Farrell gets the 10 jersey ahead of Finn Russell, but Johnny Sexton will surely make the touring party.
Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Davies got the unanimous vote for midfield, as did Stuart Hogg at fullback. When it comes to wingers, Josh Adams and Jordan Larmour were both mentioned but Anthony Watson went in at No.14. That left one slot to fill and it went to an Ulsterman.
"I think Stockdale would be quite a good fit if you're playing South Africa, in terms of options. Hard blitz, cross-field kicks, little chips for himself, never seems to miss a try. He just needs to kick the ball every time he gets it and he scores. Prime for intercepts too. I think he would fit into the structure of playing South Africa quite well."
There you have it. From an Irish perspective, three inclusions with Jordan Larmour, Conor Murray Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander all getting mentions too.
HOUSE OF RUGBY UK'S LIONS XV
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
2. Jamie George (England)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. James Ryan (Ireland)
6. Tom Curry (England)
7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)
8. Billy Vunipola (England)
9. Gareth Davies (Wales)
10. Owen Farrell (England)
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)
12. Manu Tuilagi (England)
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
It will be interesting to come back in a year's time and see how close this XV is to the team that Warren Gatland sends out against the Springboks.
"We're not going to read the comments on this one"
On this week's house of rugby, Hask, Tinds and Alex pick their Lions XV to face South Africa. pic.twitter.com/y3iyqe34cA
— RugbyJOE (@RugbyJOE_UK) June 25, 2020
All going well, the Lions tour to South Africa should take place in 12 months' time.
A lot of water will pass under the bridge before we get there - and the tour itself may be delayed until autumn 2021 - but it will be interesting to see how close this XV is to the side that takes the field for the First Test at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium.
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