Lions Watch: Six Players To Look Out For

Six Lions players the New Zealand public should keep an eye on. Photo: tinypic.com

Following the recent announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad for their upcoming tour of New Zealand, Newsbeat Journalist, Reece Labuschagne, names six players the New Zealand public should keep an eye on.

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CJ STANDER
27 YEARS OLD
IRELAND
15 CAPS
FIRST LIONS TOUR

The South African-born, Irish backrower’s inclusion in the side comes as little surprise to most.

Since moving to Ireland to play for PRO 12 side, Munster, the twenty-seven-year old’s decision to leave South Africa has proven to be a very successful one.

Stander was named runner-up for Player of the Tournament in this year’s edition of the Six Nations, and also became the first ever forward to score a hat-trick of tries in a single game in the history of the competition.

Known for his incredible work-rate, defense and carrying ability, Stander will certainly provide a ton of impetus for his side.

 

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JARED PAYNE
31 YEARS OLD
IRELAND
20 CAPS
FIRST LIONS TOUR

Jared Payne is in every sense a seasoned campaigner, and has been an integral part of the Irish national team since his debut in 2014.

Payne is one of three New Zealand-born players selected in the tour squad, having turned out for the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Blues in Super Rugby before signing for Irish club, Ulster, in 2011.

Having played most of his rugby in New Zealand, Payne will provide his Lions team with a wealth of experience, as well as being an extremely versatile player, with the ability to cover multiple positions in the backline.

Look out for the former Northland representative to return to his old stomping ground, as the Lions take on the Provincial Barbarians XV in the tour opener at Toll stadium in Whangarei.

 

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BILLY VUNIPOLA
24 YEARS OLD
ENGLAND
34 CAPS
FIRST LIONS TOUR

There is nothing subtle about Sydney-born Billy Vunipola, who weighs in at a whopping 128 kg’s, making him a devastating ball carrier, and a real handful for the opposition.

After moving to England as a child, Vunipola’s ability was evident from an early age, representing the England U20 side, and making his debut for the senior side at just twenty-years-old.

The now twenty-four old has gone on to represent the red rose on 34 occasions and has emerged as one of England’s few genuine world-class players.

Along with his Brother, New Zealand-born Mako Vunipola, the two have become established members of the England national team, and have every chance to start the first test against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

 

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MARO ITOJE
22 YEARS OLD
ENGLAND
12 CAPS
FIRST LIONS TOUR

The twenty-two-year-old’s rapid rise to being selected in the Lions side after only making his England debut last year has been nothing short of spectacular.

The lock-forward has quickly established himself as an integral member of the  English national team and has picked up several accolades on the way.

Born in London to Nigerian parents, Itoje’s potential was evident from an early age, having captained the England under 20 side to World Cup glory.

The man nicknamed “Super Maro” and current European Player of the Year, will add athleticism and dexterity to what will be a very large and physical Lions pack.

 

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BEN TE’O
30 YEARS OLD
ENGLAND
8 CAPS
FIRST LIONS TOUR

Former NRL player and Queensland representative is seen by many as the ‘bolter’ in the squad, having only played on eight occasions for his adopted country of England.

After winning the NRL Premiership with the Rabbitohs 2014, Te’o switched codes and signed for Irish rugby side, Leinster. However, it wasn’t until signing for Worcester at the start of this season that he truly shone and subsequently made his English debut.

The Auckland-born centre will look to get his side over the gain-line with his strong ball carrying ability.

While it is uncertain if he will feature against the All Blacks, look out for Te’o to put his hand up for selection in the tour match-ups.

 

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STUART HOGG
24 YEARS OLD
SCOTLAND
53 CAPS
SECOND LIONS TOUR

Scotland’s Stuart Hogg’s selection comes as no surprise to anyone, and is seen by most as a certainty to start the first test match against the All Blacks.

Winner of the Six Nations Player of the Tournament the last two competitions, Hogg will be the attacking catalyst from the back and will certainly test the New Zealand teams.

The twenty-four-year-old is only of two Scottish players picked in the side, along with winger, Tommy Seymour. The two will no doubt be looking to represent their country in a team largely made up of the other three nations.

 

Reece Labuschagne
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