The overall tour of South Africa was a disappointment for the British and Irish Lions, as they ended up losing 2-1 over the series in an extremely close final game in Cape Town. Despite failing to beat the Springboks, there are some positives to be taken from the group of games.
The main takeaways are that there are a few players hitting top form at just the right time which could lead them to excel for England at the World Cup.
Looking Forward to the World Cup
Now is the perfect time for union stars to put their names in the hat for starting positions at the Rugby World Cup in 2023. That competition seems far off in the future now, but Eddie Jones will understand he needs to carefully nurture the talent at his disposal over the course of the upcoming year. As it stands on 11 August 2021, England can be backed at 21/5 to win, with Marathonbet placing New Zealand as the current favourites.
Arguably the standout player for Lions in South Africa, Maro Itoje looks like he’ll be a mainstay in the national setup for many years to come. The 26-year-old has already made 46 appearances for his country and will be looked upon as one of the senior players at the 2023 tournament.
The North London-born blindside flanker will be seeking to add to his impressive array of trophies with a World Cup win. He has already won four English Premiership titles with Saracens and three Six Nations titles with England, but a victory in the 2023 event will be the icing on the cake.
Few were anticipating that Courtney Lawes would have a great tournament with the Lions in South Africa, but the 32-year-old actually went on to defy expectations. After earning 87 caps for England already, there were some who thought the Northampton Saints flanker’s career may be dwindling. However, if he can continue riding the form he showed in the latest tour, he could be a powerful asset for England in France.
Lawes showed he’s still got it in the first test against South Africa when the Lions ran out as 22-17 victors. He was simply unplayable in the second half, topping the tackle charts and constantly being a foreboding presence in the lineouts. On top of all that, he carried the ball marvellously.
Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones deserves a mention on this list as one of the major performers from the latest Lions series. The Welshman managed to recover from a dislocated shoulder to play, and play well, against the Springboks. At 35 years old, the veteran showed why he’s the world’s most-capped rugby union player with 160 international appearances. He may be in the final stages of his career but can still turn a game on its head. He worked his socks off in the first test win.
Even though the Lions were unable to take the spoils in South Africa, they may be buoyed by some of the exceptional performances within the squad. From an England perspective, Itoje and Lawes were particularly impressive.