One Ireland player did more than enough against Chiefs to make the Test squad 2 years ago

One Ireland player did more than enough against Chiefs to make the Test squad

CHIEFS 6-34 LIONS

What a fantastic performance, but has it come too late?

There have been strong reports that Peter O'Mahony will edge out Sam Warburton in the Lions XV for the First Test.

If that happens, surely Warburton's place in the matchday squad must be in doubt. Were Warren Gatland to seek a genuine impact player off the bench, CJ Stander is the better option.

The Ireland man entered the tour with fitness doubts over him after struggling to recreate his mid-season form in the knock-out stages. Stander seemed to be affected by ankle issues and had lost some of that explosive power that makes him such a devastating ball-carrier.

He started his Lions tour with a solid if unspectacular outing against the Blues and had the misfortune of having a fine game in another midweek loss, to the Highlanders. Stander appears to be coming to the boil, though, and he would certainly be a great weapon on the Lions bench.

Against the Chiefs, in Hamilton today, Stander had his best game of the tour.

As early as the second minute, the Lions No.8 was getting over the gainlineĀ and knocking Chiefs back on their heels. Not for the first time on tour, the Kiwis doubled up on Stander but, time and again, he got his team on the front-foot.

When the tourists were up against it, later in the half, Stander came up big with some hefty tackles and one crucial turnover.

Credit: Sky Sports

In the second half, with the Chiefs wilting, Stander got a chance to stretch his legs. He made 15 carries [44 metresĀ gained] and featured strongly in the Lions penalty try that effectively sealed the victory.

He could have picked up his second try of the tour but Jack Nowell - as wingers often do - backed himself, cut inside and helped himself.

There is one factor that will surely stand against Stander and it is a big one. He played all 80 minutes and was bringing the fight until the final moments.

While he very often puts in whistle-to-whistle performances, Gatland would have called him ashore if he was planning to use him on the Lions bench this weekend. 25-6 up with 20 minutes to go, Gatland opted to leave on the bulk of his XV so clearly has his Test squad in mind.

Stander has done all he can but he may have to wait until the later Tests to get his chance.