Austin Healey backs three England players for Lions call-up, but one sticks out
Former British and Irish Lions utility back Austin Healey has picked three England players he believes will likely play some role in South Africa, despite not being picked in Warren Gatland’s initial Lions squad.
Gatland’s squad may already be selected, but injury both before and during what is likely to be an attritional series in South Africa will undoubtedly see a significant number of replacements flown in South Africa from the UK and Ireland.
Healey believes that Ellis Genge, Manu Tuilagi and, maybe most intriguingly, Marcus Smith; will be among those to be flown, presumably based on their outstanding Gallagher Premiership form in recent weeks.
“3 names who I think will end up in SA on Lions Tour Genge, Smith and Manu. All could add something to that squad,” wrote Healey on Twitter.
3 names who I think will end up in SA on Lions Tour Genge, Smith and Manu. All could add something to that squad
— Austin Healey (@IamAustinHealey) May 30, 2021
While Genge and Tuilagi have fully-fledged Test careers in the bank, Smith has just seven England caps to his name, and hasn’t featured for Eddie Jones’ team since 2019.
Sale Sharks’ Tuilagi has been dogged by injury and despite only returning to the field this weekend, is viewed as a very likely addition should Gatland’s suffer midfield casualties. Gatland has gone for a heavyweight midfield, with many viewing Bundee Aki’s inclusion coming as a direct result of the lack of availability of Tuilagi.
Genge has played like a prop possessed since he learned that he hadn’t made the plane to SA. The loosehead admitted this weekend that his omission had forced him to ‘have a word with himself’.
“It was disappointing not to be selected for the Lions so I had a word with myself. I accepted that my performances had probably not been good enough.”
Most of the hype around Smith has been his likely inclusion in England’s summer Test squad, never mind being called up by the Lions.
“Marcus has done unbelievably well in putting his hand up and foot in the door for England,” said Quins coach Evans this weekend following their victory over Bath. “One of the main things he’s concentrated on is playing well for Quins. In the past even he would admit he’s looked forward too much on how to get into England.”
Despite Smith’s form, one might imagine that Gatland would likely look to the tried and trusted Johnny Sexton, who many were surprised didn’t make the original squad.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now