2013 British & Irish Lions
Lions Watch: Stand-ins impress
February 18, 2013
Harlequins' Danny Care scored against Leicester Tigers © Getty Images
The countdown to the eagerly-awaited British & Irish Lions tour to Australia continued as the international bench-warmers returned to Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 action.
As we all tick off the days until the team depart Down Under, ESPNscrum will cast an eye across the action and pinpoint those players eligible for the elite tourists who are pushing their selection claims with strong performances. But luckily there is still a lot of rugby to be played until the squad board the plane for Hong Kong and plenty of time for hopes to rise and fall.
15. Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster)
A Lion in 2009 but his stock has fallen in Ireland since. However he was in sharp form at fullback for Leinster this weekend and could yet come into the reckoning for Ireland given the number of injuries they have suffered recently.
14. Christian Wade (Wasps)
Opportunities were few and far between for Wade but the finish for his try was sensational, as was an outside break on the similarly fleet-of-foot Jonny May. It is only a matter of time before he lights up the international stage with his electric feet.
13. Mike Tindall (Gloucester)
The days of Tindall dreaming of touring with the Lions are well and truly gone but his form against Wasps was reminiscent of his England days. He scored a great try too.
12. Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues)
Given the paucity of top centre performances this week and the class of Patchell's display against Edinburgh, the young Cardiff fly-half is included in our team of the week as a ball-playing 12. Too early for Wales recognition, and the Lions certainly, but one for the future undoubtedly.
11. Marland Yarde (London Irish)
The London Irish winger drew rave reviews from director of rugby Brian Smith despite his side slumping to a heavy defeat to Bath. Smith is tipping him to break into the England squad sooner rather than later.
10. Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
With Owen Farrell nailing down the England No.10 shirt with impressive authority, Flood has been left in the shade. But he stepped back into the limelight against Quins, scoring a try and setting one up in a good display despite his team's defeat.
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
Care is a genuine contender for the Lions tour, and Test team, despite playing second fiddle to Ben Youngs at international level. The Quins No.9 scored a terrific try and was a constant threat against the Tigers.
Mako Vunipola scores one of his two tries against Exeter © Getty Images
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
The giant Sarries prop has impressed off the bench for England recently but given a start for his club, he showed his true potential with two tries, an indomitable display in the scurm and relentless ball carrying.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
The form of Rory Best is keeping Cronin on the Ireland bench but the Leinster hooker seized his chance to impress with two tries for his Province against Treviso.
3. Matt Stevens (Saracens)
The former England tight-head prop dominated Exeter at the scrum, played a central role in Sarries' burgeoning off-loading game and scored a try to boot. A Lions call is not out of the question in this form.
4. Steve Borthwick (Saracens)
The former England second-row continues to produce the goods for his club and ensures Sarries' lineout is one of the most reliable and effective in the Premiership.
5. George Robson (Harlequins)
The Harlequins lock put in a big performance for his club against Leicester which will ensure he remains in Stuart Lancaster's mind, despite not being in the England mix at the moment.
6. Dominic Ryan (Leinster)
The former Ireland under-20 flanker produced a terrific performance as Leinster routed Treviso at the RDS. The 22-year-old ran in a hat-trick of tries to suggest he is an international of the future.
7. John Barclay (Glasgow)
The industrious Glasgow openside has dropped down the pecking order for Scotland due to injury and intense competition. But he remains a quality operator at the breakdown and his display against the Dragons suggests he is close to his best again.
8. Iain Henderson (Ulster)
The Ulster and Ireland back-rower just ousts his team-mate Robbie Diack and Glasgow's Ryan Wilson for the final back-row spot after a man-of-the-match display against Zebre.
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