As trhe dust settles on this season's RBS SIx Nations, it is time to assess who staked a claim for inclusion in the touring party for the Lions this summer.
STEPHEN FERRIS (Age 23, Back Row, Ireland)
• Part of the in-form Irish back row during 6 nations
• 6' 4", 17 stone, quick feet - match the Springboks back row.
Stephen Ferris has been part of the in-form Irish back row, and appears to be in strong contention for a Lions place this summer after his impressive Six Nations. Having been described by 'The Times' as the find of the tournament. At 6ft 4in and 17st-plus, Ferris can play anywhere in the back row and will more than match up to the South African back row, which will more than likely feature Juan Smith, Schalk Burger and Pierre Spies.
Ex-England and British Lion centre Jeremy Guscott acknowledged that promise of Stephen Ferris in the Sunday Times, "There are some huge candidates at blindside flanker, Steve Ferris has played well in the championship".
ROB KEARNEY (Age 22/23 on 26th March, Fullback, Ireland)
• Man of the Match vs Italy
• Shows composure well beyond his years
Rob Kearney showed all the defensive qualities of a top-class full-back, with great positional sense, wonderfully assured under the high ball and a massive boot during the 6 nations. He is also a world-class attacker, with good pace, quick feet and footballing intelligence. These qualities were demonstrated in his man of the match performance against Italy in this year's 6 nations.
Lawrence Dallaglio, former England and British Lion back row, has described Kearney as an outstanding player, and along with Lee Byrne, as the best decision maker in the Championship this year.
LUKE FITZGERALD (Age 21, Centre/Wing, Ireland)
• 2 tries vs Italy
• Top tackler vs France (13)
Two tries against Italy, and putting in the most tackles against France has put young Luke Fitzgerald into contention for a Lions place. Jeremy Guscott has said in 'The Sunday Times' "I like Fitzgerald because he has that kind of rare thing in international rugby now where you see a player and you say, "Every decision he makes is pretty intelligent. I would definitely take him".
TOM CROFT (Age 23, Back Row, England)
• Man of the Match vs France
• Further impressive display vs Scotland
Following a man of the match display by Tom Croft at Twickenham against France, in which he was outstanding amongst the forwards, former English scrum-half Dewi Morris has described him as the best in show on skysports.com. "His awareness and support play are excellent, he's a tremendous lineout forward and he's as quick as a winger to boot".
THOM EVANS (Age 23, Wing, Scotland)
• Try scorer against France
• In form winger in Scotland
• Time spent with the national Sevens set-up - has great pace and awareness of space
Thom Evans is an outsider for a wing spot following his try against France. He is the in-form winger in Scotland. He has great pace and awareness, which has caused ex-Scotland international Kenny Logan to say "he has got something about him", with Lawrence Dallaglio noticing that "every time he has got the ball for Scotland something has happened".
ALUN WYN JONES (Age 23, Lock, Wales)
• Youngest forward to captain Wales since 1934
• Top tackler vs Scotland (13)
Alun Wyn Jones made history this year as the youngest forward to captain Wales since 1934, which could bring key leadership qualities to the Lions squad. Putting his body on the line, with the highest tackle rate against Scotland, epitomises Jones as a player. Jeremy Guscott has said, "I like Alun-Wyn Jones as an athlete. He is 23, he's raw. For me he has got it all".
LEIGH HALFPENNY (Age 20, Wing, Wales)
• Try scorer against Scotland and England
• Excellent kicking game
With tries in successive games against Scotland and England, Leigh Halfpenny could have put his name into contention for a Lions place. His coach at the Cardiff Blues, Dai Young, has compared him to fellow Welshman Shane Williams. "Leigh has Shane's type of flair," he said. "Once he gets the ball you know something's going to happen".
Halfpenny has a great eye for a gap, good footwork and an excellent kicking game that would serve him well should be make the summer tour to South Africa.
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