Warren Gatland names his British & Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand on Wednesday and this weekend gave one last chance for players to show their talents in the Premiership, PRO12 and Top 14.
Both Leinster and Saracens rested big players ahead of the Champions Cup semifinal next weekend, and they weren’t the only teams to give key personnel the weekend off. With that said, this is our Lions team of the week.
Munster’s Keith Earls breaks through the Ulster defence to set up his side’s first try. Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon)
What does Warren Gatland want at full-back? For Wales it has been defence first and perhaps Toulon’s resurgence and Halfpenny kicking some points could have him at fullback instead of Stuart Hogg. On attacking flair, he should go for Hogg, but Halfpenny offers him the tried, tested and trusted option.
14. Liam Williams (Scarlets)
Williams showed on Saturday that he has a decent boot on him, but it was his attacking ability that came to the fore making huge metres, albeit against a poor Dragons team. He provides a spark that can change a game and with the Lions needing to score tries in New Zealand, he will definitely be needed.
13. Sam James (Sale)
A really promising centre and with most Lions candidates given the week off, he once more showed his scoring potential with a try. He has the skill to beat defenders and is developing a habit for offloading which the All Blacks will have in abundance this summer.
12. Jamie Roberts (Harlequins)
Roberts is a textbook Gatland player, and while he won’t start, the defensive effort which he put in against Exeter Chiefs is the reason why he was a mainstay in the Welsh team for such a long time.
11. Keith Earls (Munster)
There will be huge debate over the next few days on which wingers Gatland will to to bring. In Earls he has versatility as well as a real attacking threat, as he showed against Ulster in the PRO12 with a try and an assist and huge workrate in defence.
10. Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues)
With Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton rested ahead of crunch European Cup games, and Dan Biggar overcoming concussion, if there was any doubt in the mind of Gatland, Anscombe showed what he can do. Given Wales are touring Tonga and Samoa, there is a chance some Welsh players will be called up late. Anscombe, is doubtful to be one of them.
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor insisted the English scrum-half is world class. A try, an assist and he looked it against Newcastle Falcons, as his sniping breaks, and ability to beat defenders is on a par with Rhys Webb and Conor Murray. He snatched a turnover and put his body on the line a few times.
Leinster’s Josh van der Flier congratulates Bary Daly after scoring a try. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)
Genge is unfortunate that the quality available to Eddie Jones is such that he has not built on his sole cap. He was dominant at set piece, didn’t miss a tackle and added a brace of tries to a masterful display. There would need to be an array of injuries for him to go.
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Hartley looked back to his best despite the Saints falling to defeat to a weakened Saracens team. He was solid at set piece, his lineout was almost flawless and he was a menace at the breakdown, adding a turnover.
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Despite an incredible year from Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong, Cole looks to have taken every chance to claim the Lions No. 3 jersey. Cole has the advantage of having gone on the Lions tour four years ago. On Saturday he added a break to his usual robustness.
4. Donnacha Ryan (Munster)
It has been a brilliant season for Ryan and next week’s Champions Cup game will provide another huge platform for him to show what he can do, his destructive nature at the breakdown and lineout skills.
5. George Kruis (Saracens)
It was a decent run out for Kruis, as he continues his fightback from injury and his lineout steal towards the end of the game was crucial as Saracens fought back to win. No messing about with Kruis’ defensive display, where he didn’t miss a tackle.
6. Ross Moriarty (Gloucester)
Moriarty put in a good display against Sale Sharks, with two turnovers as Gloucester look to push Northampton and Harlequins for sixth position and the last automatic spot in the Champions Cup. He showed what he is capable of during the Six Nations, but with the immense quality in the backrow, will likely miss out.
7. Josh van Der Flier (Leinster)
He was part of the Irish team that defeated New Zealand in Chicago and came off the bench for Ireland in the opening two games of the Six Nations before being injured for Leinster in the PRO12. He put in a good performance for Leinster but the talent at backrow means he’s unlikely to be on the plane.
8. Carl Fearns (Lyon)
WIth a host of No. 8′s not playing this weekend Fearns put in a huge performance for Lyon against Top 14 table toppers La Rochelle, scoring a try and putting in a huge defensive effort as they inflicted a first Top 14 defeat on La Rochelle in 11 matches.
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY