Rob Kearney's starting Lions backline would take some topping
"That England team might be hampered in terms of their Lions selections."
Having starred in the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, in 2009, and competed against the best in Europe up until his 2020 departure from Leinster, Rob Kearney is well placed to give his opinion on backline options.
The former Leinster and Ireland fullback is a two-time Lion and is currently preparing for a Super Rugby Australia semi-final against the Brumbies. Strict Covid 19 restrictions in Australia have seen Kearney spent plenty of time in quarantine and allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of northern hemisphere rugby.
Joining Fergus McFadden and Ronan O'Mahony on the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 8:40 below], Kearney gave his thoughts on the upcoming tour and, with a gentle arm twist, shared his picks for a Lions Test XV backline.
Asked to lay out a full Lions XV for that First Test against the world champion Springboks, Kearney remarked, "Jeez, lads, I wouldn't have a clue." Ever the fullback - steering well clear of the battle up front.
He was much more content discussing his preferences for a backline to test the South Africans on their home patch.
"I think Conor Murray will start at 9, and Johnny (Sexton) or Owen Farrell at 10," Kearney said.
"I think Robbie (Henshaw) is playing unbelievably well at the moment so he's in there with a really good shout [for inside centre]. 13 is very much up for grabs at the moment.
"In the back three, Anthony Watson is playing really, really well. Jonny May is playing well. You've got Liam Williams there, and Elliot Daly is a class player. He probably hasn't had as good a season as he has in previous years. That England team might be hampered a bit, in terms of their selection on the Lions Tour, given how poor they have been in the past while.
"But, in that England team, you have so many of the players that produced one of the greatest games, in recent years, in that World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. So, they will have a lot of credit in the bank."
Speaking from experience, Kearney notes how different the eventual Test XV will look - compared to what many are predicting now - once the tour games get underway.
"And you look at Keith Earls, in terms of the season he's had," Kearney added. "He's going to be right in there for squad selection too."
Add in Stuart Hogg, George North and Jonathan Davies to the mix - to complement those chosen by Kearney - and you have a potent backline unit, and back-up options.
CATCH THAT FULL INTERVIEW HERE: