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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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6 Lions players that enhanced their reputation Down Under

Many of the tourists arrived with big reputations, some fly back as genuine Lions legends.

George North, Owen Farrell, Conor Murray and Jamie Roberts celebrate.
George North, Owen Farrell, Conor Murray and Jamie Roberts celebrate.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE TEMPTATION, WHEN a new Lions tour begins, is to look back on the previous excursion and make predictions based on its stand-out players.

As the Lions arrived in Australia, via Maynooth and Hong Kong, the list of players to watch included Jamie Roberts, Rob Kearney and Mike Phillips. Six weeks on and the Lions are series winners.

Several players lived to their reputations as game-changers while others arrived off planes midway through the tour to have an impact and a select few evolved right in front of our eyes. Here are six players TheScore.ie feels will return home as genuine Lions legends.

Leigh Halfpenny

The best player on a woeful Cardiff Blues team and the star of Wales’ Six Nations win. Kicked like a dream all season and carried it on throughout the tour, scoring 21 conversions and 19 penalties. Chipped in with three tries in warm-up matches. His goalkicking was crucial in the First Test victory but he was crestfallen to drop shot with a 53m effort that would have clinched the Second Test. Showed a lot of guts to land an early penalty from halfway in the decider and came to the backline party by playing a big hand in tries for Jonny Sexton and George North.

Halfpenny kicked 21 points in the Test finale in Sydney. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

George North

Had lost five Tests from five against Australia in the red of Wales but overcame hamstring worries to feature in the First Test and electrify the series with a magnificent 60-metre burst for the Lions’ opening try. Was troubled by Israel Folau in defence on a couple of occasions but, ultimately, won their fascinating, personal duel. His fireman’s lift on Folau inspired his teammates in the Second Test [they won a crucial penalty 30 seconds later] and he broke Wallaby hearts with his side’s third try in the decider.

Alex Corbisiero

The English prop was not originally in the Lions squad but received the call when Cian Healy was forced to fly home after damaging ankle ligaments. A sign of his impact in the scrums came when he went off with 30 minutes to go in the First Test [Lions scrum started to cede ground] and when a calf injury ruled him out of the next game, in Melbourne [Mako Vunipola conceded three penalties]. Returned to score a try after 80 seconds in the Third Test and was part of a front row unit that battered the Aussies.

Jones, Paul O’Connell and Corbisiero come to George North’s rescue. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Adam Jones

Jones was always going to start the Test Series and was built up as a major Lions’ attacking weapon for scrums. The expectation on the prop was great but he consistently delivered. Was, perhaps, capable of longer stints but Gatland withdrew him after 51, 58 and 55 minutes during the three-Test series. Won two penalties for his side in the 41-16 blow-out and returns to Wales as a player that has fronted up in successive Lions series.

Alun Wyn Jones

Started his tour with a late try against the Barbarians and played his way into Test match contention, past Geoff Parling, Ian Evans and Richie Gray, to partner Paul O’Connell in the opener against Australia. Made 11 carries and 24 tackles in the Brisbane and Melbourne ties but saved the best for last. With O’Connell and captain Sam Warburton injured, and Brian O’Driscoll dropped, the lock was asked to lead the Lions and let his actions serve as an inspiration to his teammates. Made 12 carries, 13 tackles, was part of an effective lineout unit and was on the pitch to the death, pointing his finger to the heavens as the series was captured.

Irish player that most enhanced his reputation…

(©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Conor Murray was a surprise selection in the eyes of many rugby pundits and supporters, especially in Danny Care-loving England. A tightly run race, this one, with O’Connell, Sean O’Brien and Jonny Sexton all playing vital roles in the Test series. Murray, however, took his game to another level as he attacked with scything precision, delivered quick ball and often eclipsed his Lions scrumhalf rivals. Box kicks were markedly improved too. He returns home as Ireland’s undoubted No.9 for the upcoming November Series.

What players do you feel enhanced their reputations?

How the Irish Lions rated on their series-winning tour to Australia

BO’D: ‘You can’t mouth words and then not live them when it’s your turn’

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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