Thursday 21 September 2017

Lions coach Warren Gatland picks two Irish stars in his 'players to watch' for 2017

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Now that the calendar has been turned over to 2017, we can start feeling less foolish when speculating on the make-up of Warren Gatland's Lions squad that will tour New Zealand in the summer.

While the Six Nations will be the true measuring stick, plenty of players laid down a marker last autumn with some incredible performances.

Ireland and England were particularly strong in seeing off southern hemisphere opposition, while Wales and Scotland also gave some quality performances as November progressed.

Lions boss Gatland was asked by Sky Sports to name his 'player to watch' for 2017, and understandably, was reluctant to name just one. Instead, he listed six, starting with an emerging leader in the English backline.

"I've been really impressed with Owen Farrell," Gatland said.

"I think he has really matured as a player since 2013. He doesn't make many mistakes."

Gatland then namechecked Stuart Hogg, Jonathan Joseph and Alun Wyn Jones before coming to an Irish duo.

"From an Irish point of view, I've been really impressed with [Tadhg] Furlong," Gatland said.

"He's done a great job. Hopefully his form continues as well. [Robbie] Henshaw was really outstanding in Chicago before he picked up that knock against the All Blacks."

Gatland went on to mention Conor Murray's name in an answer to another question, perhaps indicating that the Ireland scrum-half is another player currently high up on the Kiwi's touring list.

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