Rugby

Stephen Ferris Thinks Gatland Will Have An Eye On One Potential Irish Lions Bolter

Stephen Ferris Thinks Gatland Will Have An Eye On One Potential Irish Lions Bolter

While the Champions Cup and other club competitions begin to reach their closing stages, many people's focus has already been placed on the upcoming Lions tour to South Africa.

Debates around who should be on the plane will no doubt dominate the rugby world over the coming weeks, with plenty of variance in opinion on who should make the test side.

There are a few Irish players who are all but guaranteed to make the squad, with the likes of Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong having done enough to convince Warren Gatland to include them. Others such as Iain Henderson and Johnny Sexton should also make the cut.

But are there any less obvious names to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks?

Speaking on The Buildup podcast this week, former Ulster and Ireland star Stephen Ferris said that Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher is someone who could force his way into the squad considering his physical gifts and current form:

There's lots of talk about Kelleher at hooker. He was very good in the loose (at the weekend) and his set-piece was really strong. He hasn't started for Ireland ahead of Rob Herring really, apart from the Italy game.

Somebody like him (could be a bolter). He's a tremendous athlete and looks very powerful...

I think he just needs to bide his time a little bit with the international window, but the way he played at the weekend against Exeter was really top drawer. He was very physical when it came to the tackle and did his job really well.

Somebody like him could really nudge his way in there. When you look at the hooker situation, the English hookers [Luke] Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George, neither of them have nailed down that spot.

You could probably say Rob Herring is slightly ahead of Kelleher because of his line-out throwing, but Kelleher has a bit more about him around the park. Ken Owens is the only shoe-in really. The hooker position in Scotland seems up for grabs too.

That is a position that Gatland could be looking to strengthen. When you're playing against the current world champions you need that physicality and athleticism, Kelleher certainly gives that.

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Kelleher has yet to nail down a place in the Ireland team ahead of Rob Herring, but he has impressed when given the opportunity.

The 23-year old will be hoping that some strong performances for Leinster in the coming weeks will be enough to put him into the conversation for a seat on the plane.

Listen and Subscribe to The Buildup Podcast here or on Spotify here.

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Gary Connaughton

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