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British & Irish Lions half-term report card: All 40 players rated

By Alex Shaw

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With four games now in the books in South Africa and four still to come, including the three Tests, the British and Irish Lions are officially at the halfway point of their 2021 tour.

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Comprehensive victories over the Lions and Sharks (twice) followed the home win against Japan, before a loaded South Africa A side inflicted the Lions’ first defeat of the tour on Wednesday evening. In a physical encounter, the Lions struggled to match the success in the collision or defensive execution of what was essentially the South African Test side.

The Lions have one more warm-up game, the Stormers in Cape Town this Saturday, before they begin the three Test series against the Boks, so opportunities are now thin and far between for guys to put a marker down for selection in those games.

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What does Alun Wyn Jones returning to the Lions mean for Conor Murray
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What does Alun Wyn Jones returning to the Lions mean for Conor Murray

We have run the rule over all the tourists below on their performances so far, as we compile the Lions half-term report.

Wyn Jones – 7
The Welshman has been impressive on tour so far, keeping the Lions scrum at parity with the Boks, as well as showing his physicality in the carry and tackle. Potential Test starter.

Rory Sutherland – 6
Sutherland has been solid thus far and did well in the Lions’ biggest win of the tour to date, their second game against the Cell C Sharks.

Mako Vunipola – 6.5
The loosehead has grown into the tour and shone in the first game against the Sharks, as well as impressing off the bench against South Africa A. His ability in the loose could sneak him on to the bench ahead of Sutherland.

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Luke Cowan-Dickie – 6.5
Cowan-Dickie has offered his trademark physicality, whilst also prospering with his set-piece basics. Like Vunipola, his work in the loose could make him an appealing option off the bench.

Jamie George – 7
George has ticked all the boxes for the Lions so far and took on the captaincy well in the second game against the Sharks. It’s a tough call with all hookers doing well so far, but George’s overall skill set could see him in the two jersey.

Ken Owens – 6.5
The Sheriff has not done anything wrong so far and would certainly do a good job if called upon to start against South Africa. Does he offer as much round the park as George, though?

Ken Owens Lions
Ken Owens /PA
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Ronan Kelleher – n/a
The Irishman has been called up as cover and should be joining the group in the coming days.

Zander Fagerson – 5.5
A couple of errors here and there aside, Fagerson has been solid in his appearances for the Lions so far, but is potentially hurt by how well both his rivals at the position have been doing.

Tadgh Furlong – 7.5
The tighthead continues to look every inch the Test starter and is favourite to regain his spot in the three jersey from four years ago in New Zealand. He’s contributing equally in the loose and at the set-piece.

Kyle Sinckler – 7.5
Despite having not originally made the squad, Sinckler has been in excellent form out in South Africa. Like Furlong, he’s impressed in both the loose and the tight and they should combine again for their starter and finisher roles that they had such success with in New Zealand.

Kyle Sinckler
Kyle Sinckler /PA

Adam Beard – 6.5
Beard has shown his physicality since coming in as cover for Alun Wyn Jones and his maul defence against South Africa A on Wednesday was noteworthy. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he featured at some point.

Tadhg Beirne
Tadhg Beirne /PA

Tadgh Beirne – 7.5
The versatile lock/blindside has looked comfortable in a red jersey and has brought a presence at the breakdown that the Lions have missed in matches without him. It would look like he’s in competition with Courtney Lawes for that hybrid role.

Iain Henderson – 7
The Irishman has done his chances no harm at all with a couple of strong showings early in the tour. The competition for a starting spot is fierce, though, and Henderson could be one of the unlucky ones to miss out.

Jonny Hill
Jonny Hill /PA

Jonny Hill – 6.5
Similar to Henderson, Hill has done very little wrong on the tour but faces an uphill battle due to the quality at the position.

Maro Itoje – 8
The English lock has been in excellent form at the set-piece and he has been one of the few Lions forwards to have consistent success clearing out and living with the physicality that the South African players have brought.

Alun Wyn Jones – n/a
Having dislocated his shoulder against Japan, Jones is only just now returning to availability. If he hits the ground running, expect him to be in Test contention swiftly.

Courtney Lawes – 7.5
Lawes has prospered in the same hybrid role that Beirne has, albeit bringing a little less at the breakdown and a little more in physicality in the tackle. Both he and Beirne could offer intriguing options from the bench, if not starting at six.

Jack Conan – 6.5
Conan has carried well for the Lions in his opportunities so far, although selections so far might indicate that he’ll just miss out when the Tests start, especially with multiple locks pushing their claim to start at blindside.

Tom Curry – 7
Of all the back rows, Curry might be in the best position to start, given his versatility to cover all three positions and the premium that the Lions will need to put on the breakdown, both in attack and defence.

Taulupe Faletau – 7
The Welshman has looked very lively in space and has shown that, if the Lions have a decent platform to play off of, he could be devastating.

Josh Navidi – 6
Navidi hasn’t struggle in South Africa, but equally he’s not been able to impose himself in games where some of his rivals have been able to. The competition for spots could see him just miss out.

Sam Simmonds – 6.5
There have been flashes from Simmonds so far and his versatility and skill set could make him an appealing option on a 6-2 bench split. That said, will the Tests against the Boks be open enough for him to truly flourish?

Hamish Watson – 7.5
Any suggestion Watson is too small – which really shouldn’t be taken too seriously if you’ve been watching international for the last two years – has been dismissed and the Lions sorely need his predatory fetching.

Watson Lions
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Gareth Davies – 6
Davies hasn’t quite found his groove yet on tour, but he remains in the competition with Ali Price to offer a chance of pace to Conor Murray from the bench.

Conor Murray – 6.5
Murray unfortunately didn’t get the platform he would have liked against South Africa A on Wednesday but has otherwise managed games well for the Lions. His kicking will improve as he further acclimatises himself to the local conditions, too.

Ali Price – 6.5
Game time has been limited for Price of late with the Lions, but his efforts against Japan and Sigma Lions did him some good. A strong showing against the Stormers could push him on to the bench.

Dan Biggar – 6.5
A solid showing so far from the Welshman who has a good claim on the starting jersey. He hasn’t made the shirt his own yet, but he is more than capable of executing Warren Gatland’s game plan.

Owen Farrell – 7.5
Some shaky moments early in the South Africa A game aside, Farrell has arguably been the standout 10 so far on the tour. His distribution and play on the gain-line have been very good and the question is do you use him at 10 or at 12?

Finn Russell – 6
Another player who has been hurt by the isolations due to Covid and injury since the Lions arrived in South Africa. Flashed a lot of his potential against the Sigma Lions, but will have his work cut out getting back to fitness and ousting Farrell or Biggar.

Marcus Smith – n/a
Has arrived in South Africa as injury cover and will make his first start against the Stormers.

Bundee Aki – 7.5
Aki has coped well with the physicality that the South African teams have brought and still managed to deliver front-foot ball for his side. Farrell may have been the man people thought Gatland would opt for at 12 pre-tournament, but Aki has given the Kiwi options.

Elliot Daly – 7.5
The outside centre has looked dangerous in the 13 jersey and his move away from the back three has got him away from dealing with high balls and back into the midfield, where he has can use his turn of pace and handling skills to open up defences.

Chris Harris – 7.5
Consistent in both attack and defence, Harris has laid the gauntlet down to Daly and Robbie Henshaw with his performances so far. If the Lions want to match Lukhanyo Am’s defensive reliability at 13, Harris may be their best bet.

Robbie Henshaw – 6.5
Henshaw was unfortunate to pick up an injury on arrival in South Africa but will have the game against the Stormers to prove he’s fit and ready. Probably the Lions’ best centre prior to the tournament, you would imagine there’s a spot at 12 or 13 for him.

Josh Adams – 8.5
There’s not much more Adams could have done so far to earn a Test selection. The wing has been in clinical form and defensively has coped well with his responsibilities. It would be surprising to see him miss out at this point.

Stuart Hogg – 6
Another player who has had his opportunities limited by Covid-enforced isolations. From a skill set point of view, there’s no reason why he can’t be locking down the 15 jersey, but both Liam Williams and Anthony Watson have shown their class already.

Louis Rees-Zammit – 7
The Welsh youngster has coped well with expectations on tour and has flashed his ability in attack. There have been a couple of moments where he has been caught out defensively, but all in all it has been a successful few weeks for the wing.

Duhan van der Merwe – 6.5
Similar to Rees-Zammit, van der Merwe has impressed in attack and had a couple of moments he would want back in defence. He offers a physical presence but with the speed, agility and kicking game of the Springbok back three, the Lions may want to go horses for courses in their selection.

Anthony Watson – 7.5
Watson has looked starter quality in all his outings so far and a combination of him and Adams would be the form wing selections at present. Watson also brings plenty of experience, having started the three Tests in New Zealand in 2017.

Liam Williams – 7
An excellent diffuser of aerial bombs, Williams’ has perhaps the perfect skill set to take on the Boks. This could be what edges him ahead of Hogg for Gatland come the Tests.

ALEX SHAW’S TEXT XV:
1. Wyn Jones
2. Jamie George
3. Tadgh Furlong
4. Alun Wyn Jones
5. Maro Itoje
6. Courtney Lawes
7. Hamish Watson
8. Tom Curry
9. Conor Murray
10. Owen Farrell
11. Josh Adams
12. Robbie Henshaw
13. Elliot Daly
14. Anthony Watson
15. Liam Williams

REPLACEMENTS:
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Kyle Sinckler
19. Tadhg Beirne
20. Taulupe Faletau
21. Ali Price
22. Dan Biggar
23. Bundee Aki

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British & Irish Lions half-term report card: All 40 players rated

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