Lions Watch: Domestic drama provides pointers
March 4, 2013
Tom Croft made his 100th appearance for Leicester and sent out a timely reminder to the Lions management © Getty Images
The countdown to the eagerly-awaited British & Irish Lions tour to Australia continued with the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRO12 taking centre stage ahead of next weekend's Six Nations matches.
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. But luckily there is still a lot of rugby to be played until the squad board the plane for Hong Kong and plenty of time for hopes to rise and fall.
15. Mathew Tait (Leicester)
With all the main contenders for the Lions jersey given a week off and Ben Foden still struggling for form, Mathew Tait took the chance to impress with a try and strong all-round performance for Leicester Tigers.
14. Tom Biggs (Bath)
The Bath winger has been in terrific form all season and took his try well against Gloucester on Friday night. Biggs remains in the mix for an international call-up with wing a rare area of indecision for England.
13. Matt Smith (Leicester)
The Leicester centre scored two tries in the Tigers' 48-10 demolition of Sale Sharks to prove his worth once again. With Manu Tuilagi often otherwise occupied terrorising international defences, Smith is a great asset for the Tigers.
12.Fergus McFadden (Leinster)
McFadden's last cap for Ireland came last November but his performance in midfield for Leinster in their win over the Dragons would have given Declan Kidney a timely reminder of his strengths.
11. David Strettle (Saracens)
The Sarries winger underlined his claims for a start for England against Italy with a lively performance against London Welsh, which included a try. A strong end of the season for Sarries, and possibly England, could see him catapulted into the Lions mix.
10. Ian Madigan (Leinster)
In the absence of Jonny Sexton, Madigan produced a wonderful performance at fly-half for Leinster against the Dragons and boosted his chances of being called up by Ireland for their final two Six Nations matches.
9. Eoin Reddan (Leinster)
Reddan, who came off the bench for Ireland last weekend, combined well with Madigan for Leinster and continues to offer a bright and sharp option at scrum-half for Ireland - even if he is further down the Lions' pecking order.
Tom Biggs impressed for Bath against West Country rivals Gloucester © Getty Images
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
The Munster loose-head, who has made three substitute appearances in the Six Nations so far this season, kept the pressure on his international rivals, Cian Healy and Tom Court, with a sound display for Munster against the Ospreys.
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton)
The England hooker was back on form for Northampton in their big win over London Irish and will be hoping for another chance to push his Lions claims with a starting role against Italy next weekend.
3. David Wilson (Bath)
Another strong performance from the Bath tight-head who is enjoying a terrifc season for the West Country side, although ousting Dan Cole in England's scrum could be a challenge too far.
4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton)
Lawes endured a frustrating match on the blindside for England against France last week, but he looked far more at home in the second row for Northampton against London Irish. And he'll be hoping to get another start for England against Italy.
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
The Wales lock took his place in the Ospreys second-row against Munster and pressed his claims for a starting spot in Wales' next Six Nations match against Scotland next weekend.
6. Tom Croft (Leicester)
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill declared Croft "ready to play a Test match next week" after another impressive performance in his comeback from injury. The Six Nations may come too early but the Heineken Cup should give him the chance to stake his claim.
7. Will Fraser (Saracens)
The England Saxons flanker produced a Man of the Match performance for Saracens against London Welsh. He had a major impact at the break down and took his try brilliantly in the corner.
8. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
Shingler has been a victim of Ryan Jones' resurgence for the national team, but on the form he showed against Edinburgh a recall to the Wales side is never too far away.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall
John Griffiths digs into the distant past to try to establish the identity of an England international whose life is a virtual mystery