Brian O’Driscoll is speaking on behalf of Thomas Pink – Official Outfitter of the British & Irish Lions. Register at www.pinklionrugbyclub.co.uk  for exclusive Thomas Pink Lions events.

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Brian on Owen Farrell…

·         “The level of ability on show and some of the team and individual performances were hugely impressive. I don’t think it’s been a tournament where one player has been consistently brilliant but Owen Farrell has shown more than a few glimpses of his genius. His development as a player has been most impressive over the past couple of years and he has shown how essential he could be to the Lions success this summer with some towering displays. His passing quality and vision at 10 or 12 creates space in the wider channels which will be essential in the summer.”

Brian on other standout players…

·         “Stuart Hogg has been very impressive – particularly in attack. His ball handling has improved out of sight and has been added to an already impressive strike running game. He along with Jonny Gray have been Scotland’s stand out performers. Liam Williams along with a rejuvenated George North continues to be the one to watch in Wales. He’s tough as a nut, has nice skills & possesses that sneaky speed. All attributes that will be called upon playing the All Blacks.”

Brian on Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Tadhg Furlong…

·         “Conor Murray picked up where he left off from the November internationals and was in scintillating form. For me, he is a shoe in to feature in a Lions jersey in New Zealand and is probably my favourite ahead of Rhys Webb for the Test spot. Defensively there isn’t a better 9 around and his box kicking is a real asset to any team.” CJ Stander’s ball carrying has been really impressive too, he is an expert at gaining the hard yards and it goes without saying that will be needed in the summer – he’s certainly made his case for a seat on the plane. But my Irish player of the tournament is Tadhg Furlong, his display in the final Test against England means he just pips it over CJ Stander. He and Dan Cole must be the two contesting the Lions Test no 3 jersey. His work rate, defensive smarts and powerful scrummaging have been the hallmarks of an impressive campaign.”

Brian on Johnny Sexton…

·         “Excuse my bias but my Lions number 10 is Johnny Sexton all day. When you have someone alongside him, like Owen Farrell, who is playing that well at 12 it makes a big difference. That pairing has the feel of a wicked combination and I’m a big believer in getting as many players with real X Factor into your side. That’s the only way you beat the best sides.”

Brian on the Captaincy…

·         “Sam Warburton has become the bookies favourite (and rightly so in my opinion) for the title after some impressive performances over the past couple of months. With some question marks over his future in the Wales team, he answered his critics in emphatic style with a big tournament, in his less favoured position of blindside flanker.”

Brian on the team’s perspective…

·         “England got progressively better whilst still winning below their best. Their performance against Scotland was very dominant. The intent they showed from the off in playing a wide expansive brand of rugby set the tone for the remainder of the game. The quality of their set piece plays cut Scotland to shreds. The intricacies of those plays only worked because of the lines of running of those that didn’t receive the ball. They sat defenders down creating space for others.”

Brian on the game he enjoyed most this year…

·         “The game I enjoyed the most this year (as a neutral) was definitely Wales v England. It was a proper Test match. Incredible intensity with nothing between the two teams, they certainly both left it all on the pitch. The England bench once again was the difference, and the strength of the bench is something that will be crucial when the Lions take on New Zealand in the summer.The final games of the tournament, England v Ireland in particular, definitely acted as a final audition for some players on the brink of selection. Warren Gatland must know 95% of his squad by now but a few Irish players may have just positively swayed his opinion with that huge performance & win.

Brian’s special mentions…

·         “Special mentions to a few others that are certain tourists, fitness permitting this summer. Maro Itoje & Alun Wyn Jones look like a second row pairing to get excited about. Mako & brother Billy Vunipola back to full fitness is massive to see and even though he hasn’t gotten much game time watch for Toby Faletau to make the final selection on April 19th.”

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