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British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news


British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will name his squad to face South Africa on Thursday 6 May. Below we take a look at some of the midfield options inside and outside the Four Nations center. Watch every match of the tour exclusively live on Sky Sports

Last updated: 02/05/21 10:50 am

Jonathan Davies, Robbie Henshaw and Chris Harris are in the frame. Below we take a look at the Center’s options for Lions …

We take a look at the contenders for the 2021 British and Irish Lions center post, and who Warren Gatland could look at in terms of center and away ahead of his squad’s announcement.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster and Ireland; Tryouts: 52; British and Irish Lions tours: 2017)

Undoubtedly one of the in-form players in the Northern Hemisphere over the past year, Henshaw is currently playing rugby of his career.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

A Lions tourist to New Zealand in 2017, Henshaw left prematurely due to a shoulder injury and in any case appeared to be drifting off the test calculation due to Gatland’s preferred ploy of casting Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell together as a double set 10. and 12.

During the Six Nations 2021, Henshaw demonstrated his ability to perform at 12 and 13, with his physicality, defense, ball carrying, aerial work and running game all outstanding. The 27-year-old is currently one of the main names for a testing location.

Jonathan Davies (Scarlets and Wales; Test Limits: 94; British and Irish Lions Tours: 2013, 2017)

Instrumental in 2013 as the Lions clinched a Series victory over Australia and were voted Series Player in 2017, Welsh center Davies has a huge Lions pedigree.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

Indeed, on the previous two tours, he started all three tests as a reliable and skillful performer for Gatland.

Injuries have taken their toll on the 33-year-old for the past two years, however, and his influence and impact on test matches is not what it used to be. Whether he makes the cut hangs in the balance, although in a pretty perverse way, teammate George North’s serious knee injury likely helped his chances.

Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks and England; test selections: 44; British and Irish Lions tours: 2013)

A 22-year-old Lions tourist in Australia in 2013, Tuilagi had just shocked the All Blacks for England at the time, but serious injuries have ravaged the center’s career several times since.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

Hamstring, chest, knee (both) and hip injuries meant Tuilagi failed to start a 2014 Six Nations test, did not play for the whole of 2015 – missing the Rugby World Cup – and failed to start test matches in 2016, 2017 or 2018 either, picking up two replacement caps during that time.

In 2019 Tuilagi made a sensational comeback as England impressed in the Six Nations by beating defending champions Ireland in Dublin before advancing to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Japan – a race in which Tuilagi was critical.

Since Covid-19 struck, however, Tuilagi has not played a test match after breaking his Achilles while playing for sale. Still at 29, the midfielder is not expected to play again until May, and risks missing the Lions selection as a result.

Garry Ringrose (Leinster & Ireland; tryout selections: 35)

A player capable of so much, Ringrose narrowly missed the Lions selection in 2017 and, for several seasons, seemed a certainty.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

His form in 2021, however, was not great, filled with mistakes and lack of focus. Thus, his place in the team is no longer as likely as it once seemed. An adorable runner, full of cunning and elusiveness, Ringrose is also a smart and creative player.

If North hadn’t hurt his ACL, Ringrose might have missed out, but now he could squeeze in.

Chris Harris (Gloucester & Scotland; tryout caps: 32)

An away bet for sure, but Harris performed well for Scotland, especially last year and amid reactions to North’s extremely unfortunate injury, Harris’s name has popped up far more than once.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

The 30-year-old center Gloucester’s displays, and in particular his defensive credentials, in Scotland’s test wins over England at Twickenham and France in Paris have been exceptional.

Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs and England; tryouts: 38)

Like Harris, Slade may be an outside bet to tour, but such is his quality that the Exeter Chiefs man has to be considered one of the most underrated players.

British and Irish Lions vying for 2021 South Africa tour: Centers |  Rugby news

Since making his way into Eddie Jones’ England plans – something many Exeter teammates have failed to deal with for whatever reason – Slade has been instrumental in the race for England to the World Cup final and started nine of their last 10 tests at 13.

The 28-year-old’s magnificent left boot, his imposing physical frame and his talent with the ball in hand mark him as a superb prospect for any team.

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