British & Irish Lions
Lions Watch - The clock is ticking
March 24, 2013
Could England Saxons and Wasps centre Elliot Daly force his way into Lions contention? © Getty Images
With the Six Nations done for another year, British & Irish Lions hopefuls must show their worth while playing in club colours.
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.
So who has made our latest Team of the Week?
15. Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Consistency is the main tenant to Brown's game, even when his team are under the cosh as he displayed against Saracens. The England international, making his first start at fullback for nine games, carried strongly and his cover tackling was spot on.
14. Tom Varndell (London Wasps)
The Wasps winger may not be on the England radar at present but his try-scoring form for Wasps is hard to ignore with his 12 Premiership try of the season and his 72nd league career touchdown cementing his third place in the all-time scoring charts.
13. Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
Wasps may have come up agonisingly short against Northampton at Adams Park but Daly's superb finish for a second half try was a moment of brilliance - could the uncapped centre force his way into Gatland's plans?
12. Ashley Beck (Ospreys)
Beck caught the eye in the Ospreys' demolition of the Dragons on Friday night with his notable endeavour rewarded with a try. He has only recently come back from an ankle injury and the clock is ticking for the Wales international.
11. David Strettle (Saracens)
The England international may not have got on the score sheet during his side's top-of-the-table clash with Quins but his energy caused their title rivals plenty of problems until an injury brought a premature end to his game.
10. Ian Madigan (Leinster)
Leinster may have been a little fortunate to claim the win against PRO12 rivals Glasgow, but let us not take away from the performance of their fly-half Ian Madigan who showcased his all-round skills on his way to a match-winning 22-point haul.
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Fresh from England's Six Nations campaign Youngs was quick to get back into his domestic duties for Leicester Tigers, helping direct play in tricky conditions. He set up Mathew Tait for what should have been an easy score, but the fullback could not execute the finish. All-in-all a solid display.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Owen Farrell's kicking kept the scoreboard ticking along for Saracens against Harlequins but it was the work rate of players such as man-of-the-match Mako Vunipola that got the side into attacking positions. Still an outside shot for Lions but performances like the one against Quins will keep him in the hunt
Ben Youngs goes forward in his side's match against Exeter Chiefs © Getty Images
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Besides being a physical presence in contact for Northampton Saints against London Wasps, Hartley also scored a try of his own in the first-half and helped drive over Christian Day in the dying seconds with his efforts rewarded with the Man of the Match honour.
3. Adam Jones (Ospreys)
Jones' was a key figure in the Ospreys win over Dragons and continued to be a thorn in the side of the opposition at the scrum and breakdown. The international experience in the Six Nations has given him momentum that should carry through to the end of the season.
4. Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Launchbury did not start in his team's 24-26 loss to Northampton Saints but when he came on his impact was immediately felt, adding resistance and stealing a couple of key turnovers against what had been a rampant Saints pack.
5. Paul O'Connell (Munster)
It was a welcome return for Munster's O'Connell against Connacht having undergone back surgery in January. The Irish lock looked eager to impress and showed his ambition to get on the Lions tour with a first-half try. If he continues to play like he did at the weekend he will be a real option for Gatland.
6. Dan Lydiate (Dragons)
Lydiate's return to action was good news for any Lions fan and although he could only muster 47 minutes in his side's defeat to Ospreys, to have him back playing first team rugby again is a big positive. Gatland will be watching closely no doubt.
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
Tipuric continued to stake his claim for the No.7 shirt with another barnstorming performance for Ospreys against Dragons. Ever-present at the breakdown and at the set piece but also willing to put in the hard yards and get himself a try in the dying minutes of the game.
8. Billy Vunipola (London Wasps)
Vunipola's star continues to rise with his physicality helping to stem the Northampton tide at Adams Park. He is not the finished article and yet to win an England cap but his raw power could prove a trump card for the Lions this summer.
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