Players are already jockeying for positions. Between now and next summer’s Lions’ Tour of South Africa there is a plethora of rugby to be played.
Push to make the squad
This is usually the time of year when club players make a push to get into their international teams for the November Test Series. This year that series has been canceled. Despite there being remaining fixtures in the 2020 6 Nations Tournament, the squads for these games are set. Instead, there is an opportunity for new players to feature in a proposed competition in November and December.
This tournament would feature 6 Nations teams along with two invited teams, likely to be Fiji and Japan. Split into two groups of four teams the competition would guarantee each team at least three games. Ample time for players to make an impression.
Firstly, to be played in 2020 are six rounds of the English Premiership. Secondly, one round and the semi-finals of the Pro14 looks set to feature three Irish sides. Thirdly, the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup where British and Irish players can be found across the remaining teams. This is all before the turn of the year when another 6 Nations comes around in February.
Throwing 🔙 to one of our greatest tries.
Who else was watching this like the coaching staff? 🙋♂️🙋♀️#LionsRugby #TBT pic.twitter.com/V3mzgAOU42
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) August 27, 2020
Gatland knows what it takes
With this in mind, Lions’ tour Head Coach Warren Gatland will have a close eye on proceedings and will be spoilt for choice when deciding where to look for potential players. Facing his fourth Lion’s Tour, third as Head Coach, Gatland will have a good idea of what he’s looking for. Undoubtedly, there will be a chance for players with little or no International experience to come to the fore at this time. However, it may be a Tour where the coach opts for experience over youth.
Physicality over Flare
🏉 Ireland’s Conor Murray says competition from John Cooney for the scrum-half spot is a positive for the team ahead of Saturday’s game against Wales.
👉 https://t.co/GQuj8rGNhr pic.twitter.com/vkCLVQzP6S
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) February 4, 2020
The 2019 World Cup winners are known for their brute strength, which will have some players reminiscing of the 2009 Tour. Gatland will need a team to compete with such a side and this falls into certain player’s hand. Conor Murray is an obvious example.
Despite poor 2019 form and a World Cup hangover, Andy Farrell kept faith in the Munster man for the 6 Nations over the energetic options of John Cooney and Luke McGrath. This motivated by a desire from Farrell to keep Ireland’s most experienced as he transitioned the team into a new Age.
Can Conor Murray get his form back
Murray won’t be complaining though as it gives him time to return to form and prove to Gatland that he can replicate the performances he gave on the previous two Lions Tours. Standing at over six-foot, Murray is not the stereotypical scrumhalf and his physicality could be a huge asset in South Africa.
If all goes to plan, rugby fans will have no shortage of entertainment in the coming months. With so many games there will an abundance of talent, both familiar and fresh, and the oncoming Lions selection will only add to the players’ drive. One thing that can be certain is the headache Warren Gatland will have next spring deciding players for the Lions’ Tour 2021
🤩 𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐒 𝐓𝐑𝐘 🤩 @JohnnySexton ➡️ Baird ➡️ @JamesLowe_03#GuinnessPRO14 pic.twitter.com/tZoLsmsnN0
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) August 25, 2020