Iconic Lions midfielder Brian O’Driscoll, who skippered the tourists in 2005 and went on four tours, has chosen his preferred Test team backline for the 2021 tour to South Africa.
The Irishman was part of the last trip to the home of the Springboks, playing a major part in the seismic 2009 second Test in Durban which was recently rerun on RugbyPass in the company of Bryan Habana, the ex-South African winger.
With just over a year now left to go before the latest Test series begins on July 24, 2021, in Johannesburg, interest in the potential Lions selection is increasing and the debate has now been massively fuelled by the identity of the Test team backline currently favoured by O’Driscoll.
Unveiling his favourites in the UK Telegraph, O’Driscoll has chosen four Englishmen backed up by one from each of the remaining countries, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
O’Driscoll’s English quartet features wingers Anthony Watson and Jonny May, centre Manu Tuilagi and out-half Owen Farrell, the latter an especially interesting choice as the ’05 Lions captain suggested that time isn’t on Irishman Johnny Sexton’s side given his mid-30s age. “He is just a born winner,” said O’Driscoll of Farrell.
Last month, Paul O’Connell, the 2009 Lions captain in South Africa, suggested that Farrell’s “abrasive attitude” had him primed to become the 2021 tour captain.
Regarding the wingers, O’Driscoll described Watson: “He’s so fast-twitch, a proper thoroughbred. The other thing I like about him is that he is fully committed.” He then added that May “must be one of the most improved players in world rugby”.
Manu Tuilagi was the fourth England player O’Driscoll has selected, suggesting the main question was who to partner him rather than which two midfield players to pick in the first place. Claiming it was a tough choice between Jonathan Davies and Garry Ringrose, O’Driscoll eventually chose his fellow Irishman.
As regards full-back, Scotland’s Stuart Hogg was the choice on the basis that “he is coming into his peak years”, but O’Driscoll was less sure of his choice of Wales’ Tomos Williams at scrum-half, stating: “I don’t know who is going to be playing at nine and it is open”
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