“[He] Has Been Phenomenal” – Sam Warburton Backs Potential Irish Bolter For The Lions
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Sam Warburton has backed Ireland international Josh van der Flier as a potential bolter for the British and Irish Lions this summer.
Van der Flier had a quiet start to the season but has been one of the star performers for both club and country in recent weeks and Warburton reckons this might have caught the attention of Warren Gatland.
The competition in the back-row is fierce but Warburton, a former openside himself, reckons van der Flier does “what a 7 is supposed to do” when he plays.
It’s going to be tricky for the coaching ticket come selection time that’s for sure.
“I think Josh van der Flier has been phenomenal lately,” said Warburton.
“I’m not much of a stats guy, but he made the most metres out of every flanker in the Six Nations. He made the most tackles, just behind Justin Tipuric.
“He’s just so good. Technically, he’s a brilliant 7. He does exactly what a 7 is supposed to do.
“This is where it gets so tricky. You’ve got Watson, van der Flier, Tipuric and Navidi have got to fit into three, and I don’t know how you’re going to do that.”
Warburton also backed Tadhg Beirne to potentially start in the back-row for the Test side this summer.
“I say Beirne at 6. I know Gatland would be more inclined to pick someone heavier [at lock] because I know he really values that weight in the second row,” Warburton added.
“When we used to play against second rowers that were a little on the light side, he would flag it and say, ‘That’s somewhere we can target’.
“I think Beirne will be picked as a second row/back-row, so he can cover both. In terms of starters, he’d probably get game-time if he went as a second row, but he’s probably not one of his front-line Test starters when it comes to there. That’s why I think he’s a better chance in the back row.
“Players like himself and Maro Itoje, or Courtney Lawes if he goes, they can all play at 6. And that makes them pretty safe picks to go, as you need players that can jump into that back row as well.
“Tadhg Beirne, for me, is nailed-on to go on tour. He has a good chance to be a Test starter and I think 6 could suit him as well.”
Sam Warburton was speaking as Canterbury launched the British & Irish Lions Test Jersey. Get yours from www.canterbury.com