Fresh meat for the Lions

Rumours abound that Warren Gatland is preparing to announce additional call-ups to his British and Irish Lions squad. The plan appears to be to ensure the first choice 23 are well rested ahead of their opening Test against New Zealand. On Top Of The Moon takes a look at which positions need additional cover and who is most likely to fill those roles.

Current make-up of the squad:

3 Hookers
3 LH props
3 TH props
5 Locks
8 Back rows

3 Scrum halfs
3 Fly halfs
6 Centres
6 Back 3

With 40 players on tour right now if Warren Gatland does want to realise a plan of not using any of the Test 23 on Tuesday he needs to add 6 more players – an entire front row, another lock and a pair of half backs. Logistically it would be very difficult for English or Irish players to play on Saturday, fly to New Zealand and still be in a fit state for a game on Tuesday. Focusing in on the Welsh squad (currently in New Zealand) and the Scottish squad (currently in Australia) these seem like the main options for the Lions’ coaches:

Hooker

Hooker 3

Both men have been in and around their respective national sides for a number of years now without ever grabbing the lead role on a permanent basis. OTOTM would have Fraser well ahead on points but familiarity might sway Mr. Gatland’s decision…
Most likely to be called up? Scott Baldwin

Loosehead

LH

In terms of banter Gordy would definitely have the edge (although Smith’s wonky headband might raise a few laughs). They’re both solid scrummagers. Will Smith’s age and the higher chances of him being a Lions’ contender in 2021 sway the decision?
Most likely to be called up? Nicky Smith

Tighthead prop

TH

With Samson Lee injured Francis continues as Wales’ first choice tighthead. Despite having been effectively out for 8 months, Nel looked solid for Scotland in Singapore. If it wasn’t for injuries WP would have been a strong candidate to start the Test matches in the number 3 jersey.
Most likely to be called up? WP Nel

Lock

Lock

No Jake Ball for Wales so Hill is currently the senior lock in their summer tour squad. He’s overmatched by the workrate of Gray though and Richie’s wee brother surely only misses out if Gatland decides to drag Joe Launchbury halfway round the world from Argentina.
Most likely to be called up? Jonny Gray

Scrum half

Scrum half

A couple of up tempo scrum halves who might not fit the mould but who would certainly bring some excitement to the midweek side. Davies is the man with the experience. Price is slowly easing that starting 9 shirt away from Greig Laidlaw – 2021 might be a more realistic target for wee Ali though.
Most likely to be called up? Gareth Davies

Stand off

Fly half

Gareth Anscombe has the local knowledge and the flexibility to cover full back. Finn  Russell is the man in form though and with plenty of 15 cover in the squad a specialist 10 will fit the profile of what the Lions need for the final 2 weeks of the tour.
Most likely to be called up? Finn Russell

The Lions’ bench for Tuesday’s game against the Chiefs could then look a little something like this:

16. Baldwin
17. Smith
18. Nel
19. Gray
20. Haskell
21. G. Davies
22. Russell
23. Daly


Of course this could all be mind games from the Lions’ head coach. Or he may only want to protect the Test 15 in which case the call-ups would only be needed to cover squad players who aren’t fit to feature against the Chiefs (possible examples – the concussed Courtney Lawes? Ross Moriarty and his back troubles?) All should become clearer when Gatland speaks to the press in the wake of the game with the Maori All Blacks on Saturday morning…

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