Lions Watch: The story so far...
January 28, 2013
Manu Tuilagi takes his place at outside centre © PA Photos
Since the start of the season our Team of the Week feature has highlighted what we believe to have been the best performances by British & Irish Lions-qualified players.
Picked by our editorial staff on form and not reputation, we believe it offers an interesting take on who is leading the chase for a place in Warren Gatland's squad to tackle the Wallabies this summer. On the eve of the Six Nations, the key proving ground for anyone with serious tour aspirations, we list those players most likely to be on the plane Down Under according to the amount of times they have made our Team of the Week selection.
15. Mike Brown (Harlequins - 5 appearances)
He may not start at fullback for England come Saturday, but the Harlequins No.15 has had another consistently impressive season for the Premiership champions.
14. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues - 4 apps)
While Wales and Cardiff Blues have struggled so far this season, Halfpenny has been their shining light. He looks certain to earn a place on the plane to Australia in the summer and while he may not be used on the wing, we had to shoe-horn him in.
13. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers - 7 apps)
There are still those who believe him to be better suited to a spot on the wing, but Tuilagi has had another impressive campaign. He is our most-featured player so far this season so expect to see him in red come the summer.
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens - 5 apps)
Saracens are pushing the boundaries on and off the field but Barritt is old-school. He has been impressive for both club and country and could well force his way into the Lions squad.
11. Craig Gilroy (Ulster - 3 apps)
There are many contenders for the Lions' wing berth but Ulster's flyer Gilroy is right up there with the best. He scored on his first start for Ireland back in November and could be a bolter for the summer tour.
Also on three: Christian Wade, George North, Eli Walker, Tim Visser
10. Owen Farrell (Saracens - 4 apps)
He coped admirably with the pressure of being named on the shortlist for IRB Player of the Year and was a key cog in the England machine that downed the All Blacks. He is equally adept in the centres so is a useful option.
Also on four: Freddie Burns
9. Danny Care (Harlequins - 6 apps)
England coach Stuart Lancaster has the welcome headache of just who to pick to start against Scotland with Ben Youngs and Danny Care both in the reckoning. At a push we would plump for the Harlequins No.9 Care who has been superb this term.
1. Tom Court (Ulster - 5 apps)
Could Steffon Armitage's Toulon form get him a place for the Lions? © Getty Images
Maybe a surprising selection, but Court has been imperious for Ulster this term at loose-head. He is behind Cian Healy in the Ireland pecking order but could do some damage during the Six Nations.
2. Richard Hibbard (Wales - 4 apps)
In what has been a fairly bleak season for the Welsh regions, Hibbard's stock continues to rise for both Wales and the Lions.
Also on four: Dylan Hartley
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers - 7 apps)
It will be a straight shootout between Cole and Adam Jones for the Lions tight-head berth and for us, Cole is leading the way at the minute.
4. Joe Launchbury (Wasps - 5 apps)
He has been the story of the season. Compared to Martin Johnson, Launchbury could start for the Lions - it would mark an incredible ascent for the quietly spoken 21-year-old.
5. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers - 5 apps)
He played every minute of England's matches during the autumn Tests and is one of the game's premier lineout operators. He should get a place on the plane and will be one of the shining lights during the Six Nations.
6. Chris Robshaw (Harlequins - 6 apps)
He will skipper England into the Six Nations and is a real contender to captain the Lions come the summer. It has been another huge season from the Harlequins back-rower.
7. Steffon Armitage (Toulon - 4 apps)
He is out of the England frame but those in France love him. We have seen him on the Heineken Cup stage for Toulon and also in the Top 14 - he is playing some sensational rugby at No.7 and might force his way onto the plane.
8. Nick Easter (Harlequins - 4 apps)
The non-selection of Easter by England divided opinion. He has been playing well for Quins in the Premiership but Lancaster is still not keen to select him for England. There is every chance that he might be a Lion in the summer though.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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