The Irish Times - Sports Weekend

In Maro we trust but Beirne could be the true bolter

- Gavin Cummiskey

Is a Lions tour without union jacks and tricolours blowing in the Cape Town sea- breeze really a Lions tour? Who cares, once all that filthy lucre is generated by the broadcast revenue. Pandemic problems aside, there are too many if’s, but’s and club players to expect a series victory in South Africa ( even with the Springboks in cold storage since 2019).

In Maro we must trust as a united Ireland amalgamate­s with Britain, all in the name of a rugby tradition where the opposition is economical­ly dependent upon the Lions brand.

The scrumhalf cupboard is almost bare, with nobody challengin­g Conor Murray during the Six Nations, so Danny Care at Harlequins and John Cooney at least offer alternativ­e styles. With Johnny Sexton unlikely to survive the relentless waves of giant Afrikaners, Owen Farrell will probably start at 10. The mercurial Finn

Russell is almost certain to tour but he’s a liability that will be ruthlessly exposed on the Highveld.

Bil l y Vunipola i s out of shape so Caelan Doris ( right) – presuming he shakes off concussion i ssues – can match what Jamie Heaslip achieved on this tour in 2009.

Tadhg Beirne is the real bolter though. The most impactful

Irish forward in the past 12 months, Beirne cannot be overlooked and while he will struggle to break up the dream second row partnershi­p of James Ryan and Maro Itoje, the Kildare poacher extraordin­aire offers ideal back up for England’s Kamikaze flankers, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, who must start if Warren Gatland’s pack is to have any hope against monsters like Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman and Duane Vermeulen.

Without any supporting evidence, we’ve gone with Garry Ringrose over Henry Slade at 13 and Doris over Toby Faletau at number eight. Just blind faith. There will be plenty of that going around this summer.

Despite England’s dramatic collapse during the Six Nations, it seems foolish not to build t he pack around t he

 ??  ?? World Cup f i nalists with some added spice supplied by Leinster, Exeter and the boy wonder Louis Rees- Zammit.
World Cup f i nalists with some added spice supplied by Leinster, Exeter and the boy wonder Louis Rees- Zammit.

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