Lions roar on domestic duty
April 15, 2013
Could David Strettle's rich vein of form carry him all the way to Australia? © Getty Images
At the end of the month Warren Gatland will name his squad for the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and with only those still in the European frame playing over the weekend, it was a great opportunity for players to get one up on their rivals. Gatland also took to the road as he watched five games in four days as he hones in on his final squad.
As we all tick off the days until the team depart Down Under, ESPNscrum will cast an eye across the action and pinpoint those players eligible for the elite tourists who are pushing their selection claims with strong performances.
So who has made our latest Team of the Week?
15. Mathew Tait (Leicester Tigers)
The former England international may not pack the kind of punch offered by his team-mate Manu Tuilagi, but his pace and skill were equally effective against Wasps at Welford Road. In this kind of form further international honours will not be far away - although it will more likely be with England than the Lions.
14. Tommy Bowe (Ulster)
The Ireland winger stepped up his hunt for a Lions jersey with a try and a promising all-round performance for Ulster on his first start since December.
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster)
O'Driscoll showed his poacher's instinct as he scored the crucial try to seal victory for Leinster over Munster on his return following a three-week ban for stamping during Ireland's final Six Nations match.
12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff)
The prospect of Roberts and O'Driscoll rekindling their form from the 2009 tour is hugely appetising for any Lions. And the pair may be timing their runs just right. In his final game at Arms Park, Roberts put in powerful display and scored a try for the Blues.
11. David Strettle (Saracens)
The Saracens winger scored a hat-trick in the opening 22 minutes against Worcester this weekend. Given the lack of strength in-depth on the flanks for the Lions a few injuries could see him leap into contention.
10. Ian Madigan (Leinster)
The Ireland international helped end Munster's PRO12 title hopes with a 17-point haul in their brutal clash at Thomond Park. The Lions' tour looks set to come too early for him but his form will not have been missed by Warren Gatland with injuries sure to take their toll on his plans in the coming months.
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
England's second-choice scrum-half was in electric form against Bath, scoring a try and making a number of sniping breaks. He's a more of an attacking threat than rivals Greig Laidlaw and Conor Murray.
1. Cian Healy (Leinster)
Another player to rise to the occasion of his side's PRO12 showdown with Munster, the loose-head produced another lively display to cement his place in Warren Gatland's plans.
2. Rory Best (Ulster)
The Ireland hooker put in a solid performance in the tight and loose as Ulster overcame the Dragons.
3. Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
The young prop helped propel Sale to a huge win against Gloucester - his penalty count will be a concern but it cannot overshadow his talent.
4. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
Jones is timing his campaign for a Lions place perfectly and another big performance for the Ospreys has kept him right in the frame for a spot on the plane.
5. Dan Tuohy (Ulster)
The Ulster lock resurrected his international career last year and he may soon get a call again if he continues to produce the kind of form he showed as his side returned to the top of the PRO12 with victory over Dragons.
6. Kelly Brown (Saracens)
The Scotland captain was a key performer in the Saracens' mauling of Worcester - notably carving his way through the Warriors' defence to create a try for Strettle.
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
Such is the competition in the back-row, there are no guarantees over who will travel to Australia let alone start the Tests. But on his form for the Ospreys this weekend, Tipuric is right up there with Sam Warburton and Chris Robshaw in a fight for a place.
8. Billy Vunipola (London Wasps)
Wasps were dominated by Leicester at Welford Road but their Saracens-bound No.8 still racked up some impressive stats with ball in hand and weighed in with 15 tackles. Could one of the rising stars of English rugby sneak onto the plane Down Under?
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside