UK news British and Irish Lions: All you need to know ahead of the squad announcement as Ulster and Ireland players await fate last news
PremierLeague-News.Com - It has been part of the agenda for a while now but, like so much else, this British and Irish Lions tour has had to work its way around the pandemic and its global impact.
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! "It has been part of the agenda for a while now but, like so much else, this British and Irish Lions tour has had to work its way around the pandemic and its global impact. The hype around Thursday's squad announcement - the unveiling of what is believed to be a squad of 36 is at 11.45am - has naturally been building but that tinge of added excitement which is usually a close companion when it comes to all things Lions just hasn't been the same.This time there are quarantining issues for the tourists, a shorter eight-match agenda and no supporters which will impact on both the experience and spectacle. It seems that the compelling need to generate money has outweighed any notion of putting the Lions on ice for 12 months in rugby's hopefully crowded post-pandemic calendar. Still, it's the Lions, it's definitely happening and it is always special. We look at some key issues facing Warren Gatland and his squad.Who's in line to be skipper?It's a huge call and the leadership provided here must set the tone for this particularly challenging tour and hugely contribute to its success. But who will it be?Alun Wyn Jones ticks almost every box on what looks set to be his fourth Lions trip. Almost every box? At 35, can he guarantee his Test place?Maro Itoje looks a shoo-in as one starting lock and James Ryan could complete that dream ticket when it comes to South Africa's uber-physicality.Itoje might even get the nod as captain, though lack of leadership experience could count against him - an area which will bolster Owen Farrell's cause. And yet Alun Wyn commands enormous respect. He still looks the best fit to pull the squad together.Will Ulster players be involved?Iain Henderson, who toured with the Lions four years ago, looks the most likely to make the trip, though Rob Herring might well also be on Gatland's radar. The problem for Henderson is that other than playing for Ireland - where he did captain them for the first time - he has barely been seen and this lack of game time might count against him. If he makes the plane - and he really ought to, especially as he can also play six - his presence will enhance the leadership group and the Lions' physicality. But it looks a very tight call in a highly competitive environment. Jacob Stockdale's versatility and even John Cooney's form might be tempting for Gatland, but don't expect it.
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.His fitness may well weigh against making a third tour and especially with Dan Biggar, Farrell, Finn Russell and George Ford all having their ages, games and bodies in much better-looking shape. And yet Sexton's experience has an invaluable look about it.Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong, Conor Murray, Tadhg Beirne, Ryan and Henderson all look to have strong cases for inclusion with maybe CJ Stander and Keith Earls making it too.Herring and Rob Kelleher have been mentioned though Ken Owens, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George look stronger candidates for hooker. What are Gatland's big calls?Has Exeter's in-form back-rower Sam Simmonds earned his ticket and how many other players outside the Test arena might make it? There is also a call to be made around just how many Saracens players can be in peak condition given their current status outside the Premiership. Scrum-half looks an interesting one. Murray (right) and Gareth Davies are the obvious contenders but none are arguably on top of their games with talk of Danny Care and even Cooney creeping in. As usual, the back-row looks a minefield with Hamish Watson, Justin Tipuric, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau, Stander, Beirne, Jamie Ritchie and possibly Courtney Lawes all in the equation.How many Irish in the Test team?IT'S a bit early to make such calls but on form there are three or four who are looking strong to be lining out on July 24 in Johannesburg for the first Test.Furlong should be nailing down tight-head prop for Gatland's Test team with Henshaw also looking a strong candidate to be in the midfield, though the options will narrow should Farrell be the starting 12.Elsewhere, Murray looks to have the physicality and all-round game which could get him a berth ahead of his rivals while Ryan might also make it but will have to be in fine form to dislodge either Itoje or Jones.Should the Lions even be touring?This doesn't feel, and nor indeed will it look, like any Lions tour we have witnessed before. You also might legitimately wonder if South Africa can possibly be ready for Test rugby and whether an undercooked Springboks squad might completely wreck this as a spectacle. But the pandemic has changed everything; there is a compelling need to generate money and this tour is timely indeed for the state of the game in South Africa.Income, albeit considerably less than normal, will be generated and the fact that cash is to be banked via sponsors and TV rights is oxygen for the game. Key datesJune 26: Japan, Murrayfield (warm-up game)July 3: Stormers, Cape Town.July 7: South Africa Invitational side, Port ElizabethJuly 10: Sharks, DurbanJuly 14: South Africa A, MbombelaJuly 17: Bulls, PretoriaJuly 24: South Africa, First Test, JohannesburgJuly 31: South Africa, Second Test, Cape TownAugust 7: South Africa, Third Test, Johannesburg"
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