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Ireland's Kelleher in line to join Gatland's Lions squad in South Africa

The 23-year-old hooker is in line to link up with the tourists.

Kelleher starts for Ireland this evening.
Kelleher starts for Ireland this evening.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Jul 11th 2021, 11:42 AM

IRELAND’S RONAN KELLEHER is in line to be called up to Warren Gatland’s Lions squad in South Africa.

The 23-year-old, who scored four tries in Ireland’s win over USA yesterday, was not included in the original touring squad but it’s understood that he is in line to fly out to South Africa ahead of the Test series.

Kelleher spent two weeks training with the Lions at their pre-tour camp in Jersey and is believed to have left Gatland and his coaching staff very impressed.

While it’s not thought that any of the Lions hookers – Jamie George, Ken Owens, and Luke Cowan-Dickie – are currently injured, it appears that Gatland is keen to bring Kelleher on board for the last part of the tour in South Africa.

It’s believed that the Lions head coach feels that having four hookers on the ground in South Africa would be ideal in the event of any injuries or Covid-related disruptions in the position before or during the Tests.

As such, Kelleher is now understood to have been lined up to fly out to South Africa and link up with the Lions at some stage in the next week, although the ever-changing circumstances on the ground in South Africa mean there could be a late change of mind from Gatland.

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Explosive Leinster man Kelleher could even have flown out with the Lions party when they first left for South Africa but it’s understood that both Ireland and the Lions felt that he would benefit from starting two Tests for his national team.

Kelleher won win his 12th Ireland cap yesterday against the US having made his Test debut against Scotland in the 2020 Six Nations.

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