When is the Lions squad announced? Key squad decisions for South Africa tour

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will announce his squad for the upcoming South Africa tour on Thursday.

There have been many discussions among fans and pundits of who has done enough to secure a spot on the prestigious team for the summer tour.

While every position has been debated, there are key spots that have divided opinion due to the sheer amount of talent to choose from.

The scrum-half shirt is one that has been at the top of the pile for deliberations, especially after Leicester Tigers and England star Ben Youngs withdrew himself from contention last week.

What selection battles are happening?

Scrum-half

Youngs removed his name from selection due to family reasons but Gatland has a lot of players still to choose from.

One player who has been shunned from his country is becoming the unlikely favourite to make the squad – Harlequins' Danny Care.

The England star has not played in a white shirt since 2018 but after returning to top form in the Premiership he has been on many people's fantasy teams already.

The No. 9 was named Premiership player of the month in March and grabbed fans' attention with a monstrous drop goal in a Premiership match against Bristol in the same month.

His competition for the shirt though is high and Gatland can only take three scrum-half's to South Africa. Ireland's Conor Murray, Scotland's Ali Price and Wales' Gareth Davies all have a shot at the shirt.

And England's Dan Robson and Ben Spencer are two names Gatland will also have jotted down. The former Wales coach has a lot of options to consider and he will have to choose carefully as fans will be sure to criticise with hindsight.

Back-row

Gatland will be able to choose eight players to cover the back-row positions of flanker and No.8.

What will be interesting to see is if Billy Vunipola is selected. The Saracens and England star has never played for the Lions before, due to injury around the 2017 tour.

While many will argue Vunipola deserves to become a Lion because of the player he has been, his form in the Six Nations only saw one good performance from him.

A more certain pick for Gatland will be Ireland's CJ Stander who announced his retirement from rugby earlier this year. If he is selected to go to South Africa it will be the last time fans get to see him on the pitch.

Given his stellar form this season, the Ireland star should be one the plane.

Back three

While the full-back position may be sewn up by Scotland captain Stuart Hogg after an impressive Six Nations campaign, there are seven other players to be chosen in the back-three selection.

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams or England's Elliot Daly may be chosen to be a replacement for Hogg to fill the 15 shirt but the main battle in the back three is on the wing.

England have two star wingers in Anthony Watson and Jonny May, while Wales' Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit looked to be in their best form in the recent Six Nations campaign.

Who will be captain?

There are four main candidates for the captaincy role; England's Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Wales' Alun Wyn Jones and Scotland's Stuart Hogg.

Jones has previously captained the side for one test in 2013 and is the favourite after leading Wales to their fourth Six Nations title in 10 years.

While Farrell is a bit like Marmite when people look at him for the Lions captaincy.

Former Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has backed Farrell to lead the team, saying he's a standout leader, while World Cup winner Will Greenwood completely left the Saracens captain out of his team selection.

Since Maro Itoje made his England debut in 2016 there has been talk of him one day becoming a Lions captain.

However, his lack of discipline in the Roses Six Nations match against Wales made many change their minds about bestowing the honour on him.

While he did concede five of England's 14 penalties that match, he was also a talisman in their 23-20 victory over France a week later so there is a chance the 26-year-old will still be in the mix.

And Hogg lead his Scotland team to a huge win in the Six Nations over France, the first time they have won in Paris in 22 years.

Gatland has a lot of decisions on his hands and all will be revealed on Thursday.

Source: Read Full Article