Oh yeah, now we are starting to really milk it. We've thrown out an awful lot of hypothetical's this week, and it sure doesn't stop here. We are going to ride that wave until it simmers into a gentle splosh. However, with the awful injuries to Launchbury and North, two very likely candidates to be in this year's squad, it might now be time to start talking about 'Potential Lion's Bolters'. What is a bolter? Well, a bolter is someone who unexpectedly lands themselves on the team sheet without any prior prediction. A bolter can drastically influence a tour in a variety of ways. Adding an extra dimension to a team that isn't performing, offering a solution in changing a game plan or simply just being a great tourist who improves team chemistry. Let's think of some of the best Bolters like Corbisiero, who's scrummaging won the tour down in Australia, James Haskell, who provided entertainment and a team togetherness that seemed lack from that 2017 changing room, heck even someone like John Bentley who scored 7 tries in 1997, one of them being an absolute worldie. Let's look at some great candidates for this year's tour...
5. Callum Redpath (Bath, Scotland)
Just the one cap for young Callum Redpath so far, but boy did he perform. Despite an injury littered season, Redpath has been Bath's most effective option in a back line full of seasoned internationals. With North dropping out of the squad, the Lion's will soon run short of centre options. I know North plays outside and Redpath inside, but if Farrell continues to perform poorly and Henshaw suffers any injuries (which are both highly likely) then a centre partnership of Redpath and Davies could be very, very interesting. I appreciate that de Allende is an absolute beast opposite and Redpath might struggle with that physicality, but the skill on show in a back line that includes the likes of Davies, Hogg, LRZ and more could be electric.
4. Beno Obano (Bath, England)
I mean, I don't know whether I can even include England in the brackets because somehow, Obano has yet to pick up an England cap. When you think back to that 2019 World Cup Final, how were England absolute mullered? It was in that Front Row... We. Need. Beef. Obano is an absolute unit with an incredibly abrasive game to boot. He's ferocious in the loose, smashing guys left, right and centre, and carrying like a titan. He's one bad man. With Marler also in contention for this year's tour its unlikely that Gatland would stretch to use options such as these, but when I look at Props available outside of Wyn Jones and Sutherland on the Loosehead, the choices get really thin. Obano is the type of guy you can bring on for twenty minutes to knock seven bells out of the opposition. With South Africa's array of world class front row talent, maybe they need a taste of their own medicine?
3. Darcy Graham (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
Call me mad, but out wide the solution is not size, it's speed. Lomu never scored against South Africa, in South Africa, Cohen used to struggle against the South African's, North has never been particularly prolific against the South African's and England were ripped to shreds out wide by the South African's. The answer is speed, skill and agility. There are lots of cracking options here, folks like Louis Rees-Zammit, Odogwu, Marland Yarde, but I think LRZ and Graham are the only realistic options. Graham is a pocket rocket who performed really well in cameo's throughout the Six Nations, tearing defences apart in a multitude of ways. A showdown between him and Kolbe could be mesmerising; I'd much rather see an option like Graham over a clearly declining May, an out of position Watson or an out of form Daly. It's weird to even talk about Graham as a bolter as he's a proven talent on the international stage, but he's had little to no press of fanfair going into this squad announcement. With Gatland likely to deploy Williams out wide as a defensive option in the air, the likelihood of him looking further afield for attacking options are pretty slim.
2. Danny Care (Harlequins, England)
I feel like Danny Care is the feel good story of 2021. I can't remember a time when more fans were this pumped up about another Scrum Half option for the Lions. Let's face it, outside of some magical Frenchmen, the northern hemisphere Scrum Halves are perhaps the weakest they've ever been. Youngs, despite having a decent Six Nations, is very clearly not up to the task of taking on De Klerk and barely features for his domestic side, Gareth Davies looked pretty out of form earlier this season and was eclipsed by the far more exciting and totally electric Tomos Williams, Aly Price is solid and stable, if rather uninspiring, and I'm going to say it... Conor Murray had a poor Six Nations outside of one good performance against England... Care has been absolutely awesome so far this year, being the best 9 in the Premiership by a distance. A cracking box kicker, a ninja around the fringes and service like a bullet, he's in the form of his life. Against the likes of De Klerk and Reinach, you need experience, stability, but more importantly you need a counter-option. You need to take the game to them and really hit them on the bounce. Give Care a shot!
1. Callum Sheedy (Bristol, Wales)
I'm not doing this because I had to shoehorn a Welshman into the squad, I'm doing this because Sheedy is a legitimate option for the tour. Even though the Lions will be stacked at 10, with Biggar, Russell, Sexton and Farrell all in with a shout of starting there, I personally believe Sheedy offers the best of both worlds. Sexton won't last longer than 40 minutes across the three tests, his injury record at this point is nothing short of tragic. Russell, although unplayable on his day, needs the perfect platform to operate efficiently from, you won't get that against South Africa. Faz was dreadfully out of form in the Six Nations, and equally lacklustre in the Autumn Nations Cup, it would be a miracle to see such a change in form that makes him a definitive threat for this summer's tour. Biggar has had a cracking 2021, and continues to showcase his excellent form domestically; plus already we've seen how Sheedy can compliment a game setup in the image of the Northampton 10 and offer his Bristol Bears attacking instinct into dire situations. I love Marcus Smith, but to plop an untested, young, small stand off against these big back rowers could be a nightmare. It sounds like a safe option, but Sheedy has yet to put a foot wrong, and it might just be consistency and predictability that could win a tour in such unpredictable times.