Stephen Jones of The Sunday Times has changed his tune from his pre-tour view of Johnny Sexton. Prior to the Lions boarding the plane to New Zealand, he thought Sexton lacked the durability to stand up against the All Blacks. The Irish out-half's performances over the last five weeks have altered that opinion.
Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell have proved outstanding footballers and controllers, and Sexton did after all have the nerve and physicality to play so well. Outside them, Davies was the best midfield back on either side, now a shoo-in for any world team. There were also some careers fulfilled out there — Sean O’Brien, at last free from injury, was awesome on the flank; Mako Vunipola lost his rag uncharacteristically in the second Test but as one of the Lions backs said, he has the power of a forward and skills of a centre and flanker when playing with the ball in hand, when he was marvellous. Conor Murray was also as influential as we thought he might be, with so many strings to his Munster bow.
Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio, also writing for The Sunday Times, believes Tadhg Furlong to be an invaluable player.
In front of Warburton, I thought the Lions front five edged their individual battles. Mako Vunipola’s workrate and handling were phenomenal. How many of us outside Leinster had heard of Tadhg Furlong a year ago? Yet he now stands as one of those players that Leinster, Ireland and the Lions just cannot afford to lose.
Kyle Sinckler — another player little known outside his own club 12 months ago — replaced him and showed phenomenal strength of character to see out the last few scrums after initially being penalised for collapsing. My instinct is to nominate Jonathan Davies as player of the series. His nous in attack and defence have been unequalled.
In the Mail On Sunday, World Cup-winning England head coach Clive Woodward hailed Furlong and Sean O'Brien as two of five his most influential Lions, the others being Maro Itoje, Sam Warburton and Jonathan Davies.
Of Furlong he said:
It was extremely physical up front and Furlong was immense in all three Tests. Strong scrummager but mobile and strong in the loose with good skills too.
I was full of admiration for the way O'Brien always fronted up and took them on with an almost reckless regard for his own safety.
In his match report for Saturday's drawn game, The Guardian's Andy Bull recognised Johnny Sexton's 'certifiable' level of courage.
Sexton was swept away by Ngani Laumape, who came down on him like a breaking wave. What Sexton lacks in strength, he makes up for in courage. He is so brave he is certifiable.
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