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10th Aug 2021

Three Irish players in Lions vs. Springboks Test Series combined XV

Patrick McCarry


“I just know what he’s about. Good player to have on the field.”

In selecting a combined XV from South Africa and British & Irish Lions players, you ruefully consider how the tourists’ backline failed to have any huge say on matters.

The 2021 Lions Tour to South Africa is now in the history books. The Springboks have backed up their 2019 World Cup win with the 2-1 series victory and are now plunging straight into Rugby Championship matches.

The Lions have returned to the UK and Ireland. While family members of the UK contingent of players are flying out to Jersey before they all return to England, Wales and Scotland, later this month, any Ireland players not heading on holidays have landed back in Dublin.

On the latest House of Rugby Lions Series episode [LISTEN from 48:30 below], hosts Alex Goode and Seán O’Brien selected their combined Test Series XV and had quite a lot to debate.

In making his combined XV selections, Alex Goode joked that Seán O’Brien had ‘lost the plot’ with a couple of his calls in the pack.

O’Brien selected Ken Owens ahead of Bongi Mbonambi, at hooker, before going for Pieter Steph du Toit [even though he only played a Test and a half] at blindside, ahead of Courtney Lawes.

“I haven’t lost the plot,” O’Brien argued. “He’s [reigning] world player of the year.”

Eventually, though, Goode argued his co-host around as he had played a big part of all three Test matches. If he had to pick a back row to win him a big game, Du Toit would make it. Based on the series, though, Lawes got in. At No.8, Jack Conan got the nod.

“Many people’s pick to be starting No.8 was probably Toby Faletau… but I think Jack Conan has had a phenomenal tour. He’s really come into his own. I thought he was even busier in the Third Test than he even was in the first two. He showed up on both sides of the ball – attack and defence – and grew in confidence.”

Jack Conan was the Lions’ leading carrier in the First Test, making 12 for gains of 45 metres. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Into the backline and Goode was driving this part of the discussion. Controversially, his first pick was Ali Price, who “surprised a lot of people”, getting the No.9 jersey ahead of Faf de Klerk.

Handré Pollard may not have been solid off the kicking tee but he beat Dan Biggar and Finn Russell to the 10 jersey. In midfield, Lukhanyo Am is very unlucky to miss out but it is Robbie Henshaw that partners Mr. Truckasaurus himself, Damian de Allende.

As for the back three, O’Brien went for Cheslin Kolbe, Anthony Watson (left wing) and Liam Williams, despite his botched two-on-one. Goode let him have Watson, over Makazole Mapimpi, but had the final call on the No.15 jersey and went for Willie le Roux.


15. Willie le Roux (Springboks)
14. Cheslin Kolbe (Springboks)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Lions)
12. Damian de Allende (Springboks)
11. Anthony Watson (Lions)
10. Handré Pollard (Springboks)
9. Ali Price (Lions)

1. Steven Kitshoff (Springboks)
2. Bongi Mbonambi (Springboks)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Lions)
4. Maro Itoje (Lions)
5. Eben Etzebeth (Springboks)
6. Courtney Lawes (Lions)
7. Siya Kolisi (Springboks)
8. Jack Conan (Lions)

There you have it – 8/7 to the Springboks, really showing you how close the series was.

If you are a Lions supporter, you could argue for Dan Biggar but that’s about it. If you’re a Boks fan, you’d be making up placards protesting the absence of Am, Mapimpi, de Klerk and probably Franco Mostert.


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