Friday 23 June 2017

Gatland praises Irish duo

Warren Gatland. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Warren Gatland. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Warren Gatland. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Tom Rooney

Lions head coach Warren Gatland has identified Ireland and Leinster duo Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong as two players he'll be keeping a close eye on in the coming months.

With tour of New Zealand getting under way in just over five months, engaging in discussion and speculation regarding who Gatland may select to take on the All Blacks no longer feels premature. The Six Nations is fast-approaching and with the pool stages of the Champions Cup nearing a conclusion, there is no better time for prospective Lions to turn Gatland's head.

England - considering their 13-game winning streak under Eddie Jones last year - are expected to feature far more prominently than in recent tours, while Ireland and Wales, who dominated selection in the series win over Australia under Gatland four years ago, should also have a strong contingent.

The recent autumn internationals saw Furlong put in a string of herculean performances as he supplanted Mike Ross as Ireland's first choice tight-head prop. The Wexford man's emergence was not lost on Gatland, nor was the continued excellence of Henshaw, whose try sealed Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago.

"From an Irish point of view, I've been really impressed with Furlong," Gatland told Sky Sports. "He's done a great job. Hopefully his form continues as well. Henshaw was really outstanding in Chicago before he picked up that knock."

Perhaps in a tacit ploy to ensure fit-again Johnny Sexton does not presume he'll be a shoo-in for selection, Gatland also paid tribute to England's Owen Farrell, who was also a tourist four years ago.

Irish Independent

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