Tuesday 21 November 2017

Sky Sports pundits pick out an Irish back and one 'mongrel' who can help the Lions beat the All Blacks

Peter O’Mahony Photo: Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony Photo: Sportsfile
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

With the Six Nations out of the way, every game over the next few weeks will be viewed through a Lions selection prism as we near the announcement of Warren Gatland's squad in April.

Irish fans will be hoping that plenty of Joe Schmidt's men get a ticket for the flight to New Zealand, and with two Champions Cup quarter-finals this weekend to showcase national talent, there is still time for players to make an impression.

Read more: Munster angry with IRFU as Donnacha Ryan heads off for Racing 92

One man who has consistently been in the Lions conversation all year is Robbie Henshaw, who has continued his development from a versatile back into a world class inside centre.

His maul penalty in Cardiff aside, Henshaw was one of Ireland's standout performers in the Six Nations, and Sky Sports pundit Stuart Barnes thinks he could play a key role in the Lions test team - albeit in a different position to where he currently plays.

Barnes was asked to pick a bolter for the test team from outside England after Sky's coverage of Leinster's win over Cardiff last Saturday, and settled on Henshaw in a number 13 role, benefiting from the distribution of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell inside him.

"My 13 is either [Jonathan] Joseph, because he is an excellent defensive player or you have Farrell [at 12] and you have Henshaw there coming hard," Barnes said.

"Henshaw there at 13, there's the guy from outside England. Henshaw at 13 outside Farrell shutting the All Blacks down."

Ex-Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson was also asked for a player who may make a late charge to feature prominently against New Zealand, and he too went for an Irish star.

"I think for me it would be an injustice to say that he wouldn't have been in the mix from the start but I think Peter O'Mahony is a guy, when you look at the Irish back row of Stander, Heaslip and O'Brien, there wasn't a spot for him in there," he said.

"Yet he comes in, and all season long for Munster after coming back from injury and that performance in the final game, he is the sort of mongrel that you want to have down in New Zealand. Whether it is as a test starter I don't know but he is an experienced guy and a leader and he will go down there with no fear at all."

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