Ahead of the squad announcement, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont tells us what it means to a player to be selected to represent the British and Irish Lions against the All Blacks.
Does winning a Lions series come close to winning a Rugby World Cup?
Beaumont, who played in the 1977 and 1980 Lions sides and captained during the latter tour, shares his own experiences and explains what it means to represent the team.
You can watch Beaumont talk about representing the Lions in the video posted by World Rugby’s official YouTube channel, below.
After a successful Six Nations in which England clinched the title, Tom Wood believes their back-row is in rude health ahead of the summer Tour to Argentina.
With experienced front-liners Billy Vunipola and James Haskell injured for various stages of the tournament, Eddie Jones was forced to field a rookie back-row that subsequently excelled – something that will now bolster competition for places going into the June Tests in San Juan and Santa Fe.
Wood was one of Jones’ trusted lieutenants during the Six Nations – despite being consigned to a substitute role after picking up a shoulder injury in the opening game against France – and he believes it’ll be a real selection headache for the boss when injured stars are fully fit.
“When everyone is fit it is going to be a headache selection wise for Eddie Jones, but the truth is in the back row its rare everyone is available in the back-row,” Wood told Sport360.
“It’s such an attritional position; few decisions are made for you because those injuries quickly accumulate.”
“You’ve got people like Chris Robshaw to come back into the squad, Sam Jones who was injured earlier in the year, Jack Clifford who hasn’t played a lot of rugby and has had his injuries as well.”
Jones has instigated England’s push to become one of the best teams in the world and after guiding them to a record-equalling 18 successive victories, the focus now turns to the two Tests in South America.
The Australian native has long been one to keep the media guessing, suggesting in the past that he brought his dog in to train with England and even getting involved in scrum training himself against the likes of hard hitters Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley and Dan Coles.
“He’s very confident in his own ability and in the squad,” said Woods. “He’s very good at distracting the media from what we are actually doing, throwing them a few red herrings here and there. That makes a big difference and takes the pressure off the group.
“He’s been there and done it. He’s an established coach and he’s learned some crafty methods along the way and he’s confident doing that.
“Eddie’s one of the boys. In the team room he is laughing and joking. He’s got banter; he’s got nicknames for everyone.
“Out there on the pitch he’s a pretty good task master, picks up on errors straight away and looks at the basic fundamental areas of the game and polices them very hard.”
While Welsh flanker Sam Warburton might be a favourite to be given the nod as the skipper of the Lions when the squad is announced on Wednesday, nothing can be said until the final call is made.
Should Warren Gatland select Sam Warburton as Lions captain?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.
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MATT JONES, SAYS YES
The majority of fans and critics will have you believe the Lions won’t win a series in the land of the long white cloud with the unassuming Sam Warburton as skipper.
They will say a leader with passion, fire and desire is needed. Someone who grimaces and grabs team-mates by the scruff of the neck.
That only with a true warrior at the head of the pride, can the Lions be victorious. Someone like Dylan Hartley or Rory Best. Players who embody a blood and thunder style of leadership.
But, in the cauldron-like surroundings of Eden Park and Westpac Stadium, cool, calm heads will be needed for the Lions to be successful.
Who better than Warburton – a man known as Captain Cool. Neither Hartley or Best are guaranteed to start, while Gatland cannot rely on the England firebrand to stay on the pitch, with concerns over both his temperament and fitness.
Don’t mistake Warburton’s friendly demeanour for a lack of fight. He amassed 62 tackles in the Six Nations (fourth most) and was responsible for five turnovers (third most).
His style of captaincy has been compared to that of Martin Johnson’s, a leader renowned for his quiet resolve rather than table-thumping.
“We just followed Johnno. Sam reminds me of [Johnson] in the way he goes about his captaincy,” Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins has said. It is no coincidence that the Lions’ last series win prior to Australia was South Africa in 1997 with Johnson at the helm.
People will have their opinions, but the only one that counts is Gatland’s. The Kiwi has worked side-by-side with Warburton for years, the two know each other inside out and Gatland obviously trusts him.
He led the Lions to a first series win in 16 years in 2013, so why would Gatland not go for a tried and trusted deputy who has been there and done it before.
ALEX BROUN, SAYS NO
Even in this era when sport keeps getting bigger and bigger the British and Irish Lions remain one of the biggest shows on earth.
They represent the pride of four extremely proud nations and the hopes of over 50 million people as they try to become just the second ever Lions team to win a series in New Zealand.
From the moment they step off the plane the Lions will be under immense scrutiny – in both hemispheres – and with a media pack of over 100 hungry journalists dissecting their every move.
The last thing they need is a captain hobbling off the plane setting off a few thousand stories on whether or not he will be fit to play the first Test on June 24.
“Warburton Watch” will be in full swing, with Warren Gatland called upon on a daily basis to say his captain will be fine, Warburton himself tasked with smiling bravely and an army of physios to rub, prod, stretch and test his left knee.
When you are facing the best rugby players on the planet on the field, and the most rabid supporters off it, the last thing you need is distractions – and that is what “Warburton Watch” would become very quickly.
Warburton is a princely young man who carries himself extremely well in public and has many great seasons under his belt.
He was a big part of Wales’ charge in the 2011 RWC, until he was sent off in the semi-final. He was also a key part of the Lions victory in Australia four years ago, but remember he did not play in the deciding third Test, when Alun Wyn Jones took over.
Indeed with so many great flankers available there is a school of thought that Warburton should not even be on tour.
As Stuart Barnes wrote recently, the Lions need ball carriers not tacklers on this tour – and Warburton is not a ball carrier.
Perhaps Sam’s role could be best served as mid-week captain – if he can prove his fitness.