Only two Englishmen have made Ugo Monye’s British and Irish Lions XV to start against South Africa this summer.
Monye shared his team on BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast recently, and it only differed in one position from the results of a fan poll conducted by the BBC. The former England and Lions winger opted for Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship Hamish Watson at openside flanker instead of Tom Curry.
Monye’s selection reflects the significant decline in form England have experienced this year after winning the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup in 2020, with only Maro Itoje and Anthony Watson making his team.
Likewise, in light of their upturn in form, six Welsh players make his XV, including 20-year-old Louis Rees-Zammit, who Monye has picked to wear the same No11 shirt he wore in the first Test against the Springboks twelve years ago.
Monye’s selection has changed dramatically over the course of the past six months, as a team that was once dominated by English players is now barely represented. That is to be expected, as the final Six Nations before a Lions tour always has a decisive impact on the squad.
The warm-up matches will be crucial this year for the Saracens contingent in the squad, who will seek to impress leading up to the Test series after coming from playing in the Greene King IPA Championship. They may force Warren Gatland to rethink his XV, but on form alone, it is hard to argue with Monye’s team.
'And there was this one training session when he passed the ball to Alex King and he had enough and he just threw the ball back and said ‘I’m not taking that s*** anymore'https://t.co/MUdZxeuFWB
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 18, 2021
The final two rounds may have been particularly pivotal in swaying Monye, as Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton were picked as the halfback combination to start against the Springboks. Neither entered the Six Nations as the favourites to make a Lions XV but commanding performances against both Scotland and England helped Ireland finish on a high.
Monye’s Lions XV:
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. George North (Wales)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11. Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
1. Wyn Jones (Wales)
2. Ken Owens (Wales)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
5. Maro Itoje (England)
6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
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