Despite what an old cantankerous journalist may have intimated, the Lions future is safe. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the young guns who may line out the next time the Lions congregate in South Africa. (Number shown is age in 2021)
- Ellis Genge (England, 26)
The 22 year old prop has been a revelation for Leicester in the Premiership this year, with his dynamic ball carrying and solid scrummaging being one of the highlights of a pretty bland season for Leicester.
- Luke Cowan-Dickie (England, 27)
Another young English forward, Cowan-Dickie is an abrasive hooker who has been capped for England previously. It is unlikely that Ken Owens or Rory Best will make the 2021 squad due to age, so the young Cornishman has a real opportunity to force his way onto the plane to South Africa.
- Zander Fagerson (Scotland, 25)
Capped 9 times for Scotland at age 21, Fagerson is one of Scotland’s brightest stars, and another 4 years of international rugby should hopefully iron out some of Fagerson’s problems at scrum time. Will likely contest with two 2017 Lions for a tighthead spot, Kyle Sinckler and Tadgh Furlong, who will both be 28 during the next tour.
- Jonny Gray (Scotland, 27)
Very unlucky not to make the squad this year Gray has been a mainstay in the Scottish second row over the last few years, and may arguably be at his peak come the 2021 tour. He also should have been called up to the Lions instead of a certain Welsh second row who’s name I can’t even remember.
- Nick Isiekwe (England, 23)
One of the stars of the U20 Six Nations Championship for England earlier this year, Isiekwe is a dynamic, modern lock, and the youngster’s prolific ability have seen him called up to the England senior side for their tour of Argentina this Summer. Came through the Saracens academy, which produced the 2017 Lions second rows George Kruis and Mark Itoje.
- Jack Conan (Ireland, 28)
A versatile back row who has been in prolific try scoring form for Leinster this year, Conan is seen as a long term replacement for Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip for Ireland, and should have enough international experience to put him in the frame for the tour to South Africa.
- Josh Van der Flier (Ireland, 28)
Another Leinsterman, Van der Flier has struggled with injuries in recent months, but is seen as one of the finest back rows in the Northern Hemisphere when fit. Capped 7 times for Ireland, Van der Flier will be a mainstay in the Irish back row for years to come, and will undoubtedly be in the frame for Lions selection in 2021 (and could even make the 2017 tour if injuries start to take their hit).
- Zach Mercer, (England, 24)
The England u20 captain has been arguably the Premiership’s find of the year, with his soft hands and phenomenal work rate, and will likely be contesting with Billy Vunipola and Josh Beaumont for the England number 8 shirt in 2021.
- Ali Price (Scotland, 27)
Greg Laidlaw’s transfer to Clermont Auvergne should lead to Price becoming Scotland’s first choice scrum half after the Lions tour. A fast scrum half, who gives great service to his outside backs, Price should be at prime age and in prime form for the 2021 tour.
- Joey Carbery (Ireland, 25)
This time last year, you would be forgiven if you had not heard much about this young Irish fly half. Earning his first Ireland cap in Ireland’s victory over New Zealand last October, Carbery has shone this year, whether that be at 10 or 15 for Leinster, and his MOTM performance against Wasps in the European Cup quarter finals showed exactly what the youngster is capable of.
- Keelan Giles (Wales, 23)
Not much has been said of the young Welsh winger which hasn’t been said already. Blessed with incredible pace, phenomenal footwork and surprisingly solid defensive ability for such a small and young winger, Giles was first called up to the Wales squad at age 18, and will likely be contesting with current Lions Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson for a spot on the wing in the 2021 tour.
- Harry Mallinder (England, 24)
The 6’5″ youngster has been arguably Northampton’s back of the season, and his playmaking ability as well as his versatility (being able to cover 10, 12 and 15) should lead to him becoming a regular in the England set up over the next 4 years, if he can tidy up some of his defensive issues.
- Garry Ringrose (Ireland, 26)
Recently named Ireland’s young player of the year, Ringrose is part of a very effective centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw for both Ireland and Leinster. His exceptional solo try against Clermont Auvergne in the European Championship semi finals showed exactly what the young outside centre is capable of, and if he continues his prolific rise then he should be one of the first names on the plane in 2021.
- Adam Byrne (Ireland, 27)
Byrne’s form for Leinster this year has earned him the support of many pundits, namely Will Greenwood, and the tall winger should be in contention for a spot in the 2021 tour if he can continue his try scoring form for Leinster and ultimately Ireland in the future.
- Rhun Williams (Wales, 23)
The second Welshman on the list, Williams has been called up for Wales’s Summer tests at the tender age of 19, after brilliant campaigns for Cardiff Blues and Wales U20 this season, scoring on his Blues debut against Trevino. The youngster is seen as a long term replacement to Leigh Halfpenny for Wales over the coming years.
- Niall Scannell (Ireland, 29)
Arguably established as Ireland’s second choice hooker, Scannell will hope to dislodge the ageing Rory Best as Ireland’s starting hooker, after enjoying a stellar season for Munster.
- Rob Evans (Wales, 29)
A talented loosehead prop, Evans has enjoyed another solid season for Llanelli Scarlets as they finished 3rd in the Pro 12, and should definitely be in contention for a maiden Lions tour in 2021 if he isn’t called up as an injury replacement this year.
- Paul Hill (England, 26)
An athletic, aggressive prop, Hill’s stock has fallen slightly over the last year, losing his England bench spot to 2017 Lion Kyle Sinckler, but at the age of 22 his career is still in a very early stage, and many tip the Northampton Saint to become an international mainstay for England in the future.
- Adam Beard (Wales, 25)
The second Osprey in this team, Beard is a former Wales U20 lock who has impressed many this season with his solid performances for his club side, and many tip him to be a long term replacement for the popular Lion Alun Wyn Jones in the future.
- Sam Underhill (England, 24)
Called up to the England senior side for the first time this Summer, Underhill is a versatile back row forward who has impressed many with his performances for Ospreys this year, and many tip the youngster to form a solid partnership for both club and country with fellow Bath players Zach Mercer and Tom Ellis.
- Tomos Williams (Wales, 26)
The young Cardiff Blue has had a stellar season in the Pro 12, and his performances have earned him a rightful place in the Welsh senior side in the Summer. Should be contesting with 2017 Lion Rhys Webb for a place in the Welsh setup for many years to come.
- Sam Davies (Wales, 27)
Immensely popular in his native Wales, Davies has been a solid performer for Ospreys over the last few years, and broke into the Welsh setup for the 2017 Six Nations.
- Huw Jones (Scotland, 27)
A fast, agile centre, Jones could have been a potential Lions bolster this year had he not succumbed to injury after impressive performances in the previous Six Nations and Autumn Tests for Scotland.