Warren Gatland has hit a roadblock ahead of his announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad next week after George North revealed he had ruptured his ACL in an injury sustained while on Rainbow Cup duty for Ospreys.
After reinventing himself as an outside centre this year under Wayne Pivac, the Welshman was in a very good position to make his third tour having previously been chosen on the wing for the respective 2013 and 2017 trips to Australia and New Zealand.
With North ruled out of July’s tour to South Africa, it has opened the door to players who would have been considered to be in the periphery of Gatland’s selection race.
While nothing is certain, Jonathan Davies and Robbie Henshaw are more or less guaranteed a place in Gatland’s squad, with Owen Farrell also likely to be deployed as a centre. But there is now some new hope for players in the midfield in light of this North injury.
RugbyPass runs the rule over six players whose prospects of tour selection have potentially been boosted by the Welsh midfielder being ruled out with ACL damage.
Terribly sad news coming out of Wales… https://t.co/gdc3ZoG9T8
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 28, 2021
GARRY RINGROSE (Ireland)
Before North picked up this injury, the Ireland midfielder was already in a good position to be part of the 36-man squad but his prospects now seem much better. Made a return to playing last weekend for Leinster after injury with Ireland in the round four Six Nations win over Scotland in March.
ELLIOT DALY (England)
In terms of versatility, the English back is the best option to replace North. He can cover the entire back three and outside centre and that could be valuable in a 36-man squad. Like many of his compatriots, his Lions hopes were dented by England’s poor Six Nations campaign but he will feel his chances of inclusion have been boosted.
CHRIS HARRIS (Scotland)
Scotland’s No13 emerged as a candidate to be reckoned with after a succession of imperious defensive performances during the recent Six Nations. He may not pose the same attacking threat as North, but his defensive credentials would be unmatched.
HENRY SLADE (England)
Another England player who fell down the pecking order because of the Six Nations having been in many people’s Lions squads ahead of North at the beginning of the year.
CAMERON REDPATH (Scotland)
By far the most inexperienced player on this list with only one cap to his name, but he threw his hat into the ring with his February debut against England in the first round of the Six Nations. The tour may have come slightly too early for him, but North’s injury will provide some hope.
MANU TUILAGI (England)
As a like-for-like replacement, he provides even more power in midfield than what North would have offered. Gatland knows what he would get from the Sale centre, but he has been out of action since September with an achilles injury. Although expected to be fit for the tour, he would still be considered a risky option given his layoff.
"That speaks volumes of the bloke that he is"
– How Sale won their Manu battle https://t.co/aRLC2Xw81k
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 20, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now