It seems fair to say that Derek Quinnell would have been classified as an underdog for a Lions Test departure if anyone had discussed these matters prior to the 1971 New Zealand tour.
He hadn’t even played for Wales at that time.
And Mervyn Davies, formidable English flanker Peter Dixon, John Taylor, legend in the making Fergus Slattery and Roger Arneil, who by this point had won more than 20 caps for Scotland, were all outstanding line-back operators.
But Quinnell won his Lions cap on that tour and in the all-important third test when, with the series tied 1-1, Carwyn James brought him in to deal with All Blacks scrum half Sid Going. The then-young Llanelli, who had embarked on the tour at the age of 21, fulfilled his mandate by doing an issue about a player who was later to be described by historians at his local union, North Auckland, like “a bundle of barbed wire, cast iron and rubber. Sid ran like a slippery eel heading for the water ”.
He didn’t go far against Quinnell.
Strangers come on Lions tours.
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Warren Gatland’s squad that will face Japan on Saturday includes a number of players who will need to seize any chances that present themselves if they want to make the tests against South Africa.
Starting this weekend.
Here are seven.
With Rob Henshaw’s chances of making the first test roughly in the stadium of those bookies who might be setting for the rising sun in the morning, interest in the midfielder should focus on who the partner will be. from the Irish.
Gatland’s comments on Owen Farrell when announcing the squad for Japan were significant, saying the Englishman garnered the most votes when Lions players were asked to choose a leadership group.
The New Zealander clearly values Farrell as a leader.
But there is too much at stake in South Africa for anyone to be chosen on reputation and the Englishman will have to find form after an ordinary Six Nations.
Scotsman Chris Harris is also in the game.
Aki will then have to come from behind to take the test.
But it’s as strong as teak and won’t fail for lack of trying.
Duhan van der Merwe
It’s the wing or the bust for the big man, and with Anthony Watson, Josh Adams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams for the offshore competition, he faces a challenge.
That said, he’s 6ft 4in, 16th 10lb, can accelerate quickly, and is a nightmare to score.
He can overtake defenders and cross them if that’s what the situation calls for.
Do not exclude it from pretending to be tested.
He’s another who isn’t seen as a test starter, with Wyn Jones the loosehead prop favorite and Mako Vunipola set to lead the challenge at the Welshman.
But Sutherland is an accomplished scrummer and he can hit hard in the tackle.
For Scotland in recent years he has been exceptional.
To have any chance of winning a selection, he will need to be at his best and match Jones and Vunipola’s industry on the pitch.
But he’ll head to South Africa quietly confident that he can give a decent account of himself.
Pike perch fagerson
Tadgh Furlong looks stuck in place for a test and there’s Kyle Sinckler to consider as well.
But the 6-foot-2, 19-pound, 10-pound Fagerson is a huge man who is surprisingly mobile and continuous, blessed as he is with an engine that doesn’t appear to have a stop button.
He’ll probably need a stroke of luck to get a test spot.
But such ruptures do occur.
Many would love to see this guy start against the Springboks.
But with Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones for the competition, he will have to offer something special.
He had an excellent Six Nations, do more meters, achieve more turnovers and have more ball moment in hand than its specialized rivals.
And he gave no penalty.
Coaches tend to appreciate such discipline.
About a month ago in The Telegraph, Will Greenwood said of him: “Henderson is in my starting XV test right now.
“He reminds me a lot of Jeremy Davidson from 1997 … because he’s not just a big hunk. He is a smart rugby player, high quality in the lineup and an excellent ball handler.
“There is never a bad game.”
But the presence in the workforce of the other two means that he is far from being a Test Banker.
How can the Six Nations player be considered an outsider in the Test?
Because Tadhg Beirne, Tom Curry, Taulupe Faletau and Justin Tipuric – a man who has never missed a single tackle in a Lions jersey: 107 hits, each of them successful – should also be in the mix for the back line, that’s how.
Expect Watson to fight to the end for a spot.
Pinball, as he’s known in Scotland for the way he bounces off defenders, is a solid forward, good on the ball and doesn’t miss a lot of shots himself.
Keep an eye on him.
What long shots from the Test do you see coming to challenge places against South Africa? Give your opinion in the comments below.
He has Taulupe Faletau and Sam Simmonds for company at No.8, so he’s not someone who has been heavily tipped to face South Africa.
But anyone who saw him play for Leinster against Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Champions Cup wouldn’t rule him out of the equation entirely.
He’s a muscular carrier who can cause a storm in the back row.
Again, however, he’ll likely need the fortune to smile at her.