Nearly everyone on the planet, except me has selected their starting XV for the first British and Irish Lions test against the All Blacks on 24th June.
They all just add to pub debates of course – only Warren Gatland’s selections matter.
Over the next few weeks I will be giving you my (uninformed) predictions on the squad, comparisons with the All Blacks as well as some other odd views on the tour – I just knew you’d be pleased.
Today however I wanted to talk about the unwritten ‘tradition’ that the Lions would often (if not always) include an uncapped player in the squad.
It is harder now of course – more players are capped because of the larger (and therefore presumably longer) bench, the increased number of international games and the inevitable greater injury list because every player is that much bastard larger than before professionalism arrived.
As far as I am aware it was never a given that there should be an uncapped inclusion but there have been some famous names who had that distinction – most of whom went on to distinguished international careers.
The last player with this honour, as far as I can recall is Will Greenwood – although I think that John Bentley might also have been a non ‘union’ international in 1997. There have been none since for the 2001. 2005, 2009, 2013 tours.
Other notable names that I can think of pre 1997 include Alun Lewis (1977), Derek Quinell (1971), Elgan Rees(1977), Brynmor Williams (1977), Dickie Jeeps (1955) and John Brown (1962) – I may not be 100% correct on all of these.
John Brown was actually my rugby master at school – obviously he was better at playing the game than teaching it! He appears in other posts here if you’re interested (probably not) – ‘For Pete’s Sake’ and ‘When it Started’.
1977 was a popular year with 3 uncapped players and when you look at the list it is less of an actual tradition than I thought.
Warren Gatland will announce his squad on April 19th – it seems unlikely that he will have room in his 37 for any uncapped players although a few names have been suggested.
These include Thomas Young, Denny Solomona, Jack O’ Donaghue, Tommy Taylor and Matt Scott.
I’d be surprised if any make it – New Zealand is a tough place to tour especially for those who have yet to experience the cauldron of international rugby.
But with the inevitable injuries and call for replacements, you never know.