British and Irish Lions Candidates for South Africa Tour 2021: Half-Backs | Rugby Union News
Conor Murray, Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar are in the picture. Below we look at the half-back options for the Lions …
We look at the candidates for the UK and Irish Lions half-back positions in 2021 and see who Warren Gatland might see ahead of his announcement on the roster regarding scrum-half and out-half …
Half of scrum
Conor Murray (Münster and Ireland; test caps: 94; British and Irish Lions tours: 2013, 2017)
The scrums half of the Lions test for all three tests in New Zealand four years ago. Murray’s consistency of performance has changed slightly over the years since then.
A stellar 2018 was followed by mixed campaigns in 2019 and 2020, while an injury threatened his Lions chances in 2021. That was until Murray got back to starting in Round 5 of the Six Nations against England and looked a lot more like the old self. In other words, a really first-class Scrum half.
Scrum-half is an area where Gatland won’t be spoiled for choice this time around, and since Murray scored two wins for Münster last time in Leinster, the Limerick man should definitely be on the plane.
Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues and Wales; Test caps: 21)
As a result of injuries, no player has been able to lock the scrum half berth in Wales, with Williams, Gareth Davies and Kieran Hardy all claiming the nine jerseys before they fell out in recent years.
Even so, Williams has shown a sharp, snappy, and intelligent Scrum half and at one point appeared to be the hottest favorite to claim the Lions testing spot.
His talent should get him to build the plane, and from there he must continue to impress with appearances in Lions red.
Kieran Hardy (Scarlet and Wales; Test Caps: 4)
A little bolder, since he only has four test caps so far, Hardy’s appearances in the Six Nations 2021, combined with the lack of scrum-half options, have given the 25-year-old a potential chance on tour.
After missing a spot on the Wales squad in Round 1 of the Six Nations against Ireland (Williams and Davies were selected), a hamstring injury for Williams saw Hardy bench for Wales to beat Scotland before beating England took the lead and Test im Sturm took the lead with a fine display.
Half of the fly
Owen Farrell (Saracens and England; Test Caps: 97; British and Irish Lions Tours: 2013, 2017)
Four years ago, Farrell began halfway through the first Lions Test against the All Blacks before moving to the inner center for the next two Tests as the tourists recovered from the defeat and pulled off a convincing streak.
Where Gatland wants to use the 29-year-old in South Africa is in the air, but Farrell is more than capable of beating the 10 or 12 jersey for the Lions, as is his playing skills, defensive solidity and his excellent kick game.
Either way, Farrell will be an integral part of the Lions’ plans you envision.
Johnny Sexton (Leinster and Ireland; Test Caps: 105; British and Irish Lions Tours: 2013, 2017)
During the last two Lions tours, Sexton selected six test caps as a crucial number – five of them when the inviting team secured a series win in Australia and then drew in New Zealand.
Sexton turns 36 in July and is showing little sign of the field of play slowing down. His performances at the Six Nations 2021, especially against Scotland and England, showed the quality he still possesses.
At the time of writing, Sexton is out with a concussion which will be cause for concern, but in terms of skill, the Irish skipper has shown enough.
Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints and Wales; Trial Caps: 91; UK and Irish Lions Tours: 2017)
Biggar’s displays over the past few weeks seem to have earned him a spot on the roster, as he seems to play himself into the images of Wales and Lions again and again when he’s written off.
The 31-year-old cannot achieve a test cap on the 2017 tour and hopes to have even more problems with Farrell and Sexton this time.
Under great pressure from Bristol’s Callum Sheedy nationally, Biggar’s kicking, aerial work and bravery on the pitch are worthy of praise. In fact, Sam Warburton, Stuart Barnes, Northampton head coach Chris Boyd and others spoke of Biggar as Lions Test 10 last week.
Finn Russell (Racing 92 and Scotland; test caps: 51)
For much of the past two seasons, Racing 92’s Mercury Russell has been referred to by many as Lions 10 and up. However, that narrative seemed to be changing through and through the Six Nations of 2021.
After missing the 2017 Lions tour, Russell received a belated call as part of the infamous and controversial Geography Six, but was not involved at all. And now there’s talk of missing out again, that’s how unpredictable he is on the pitch.
The drop in performance in Scotland in 2021 after a first win at Twickenham since 1983 resulted in a slump against Ireland and Wales that would not have helped Russell’s cause. In Gatland’s eyes, will Russell be worth the risk if he’s amazingly brilliant in his day but can also cost a match?