As a verteran of two Lions tours, Jamie Heaslip knows what he is talking about when it comes to that red Jersey. Heaslip has also been a constant member of the Irish back row for the bones of ten years now, and he has admitted that he thinks that CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony may struggle to get test caps this summer.
Heaslip feels that Leinster have a chance of having 5 of their players start for the Lions in the first test, should they remain injury free. It may be Leinster bias however, as Tadgh Furlong looks the only nailed on at this moment. When asked about Stander and O’Mahony however, Heaslip was less optimistic saying,
“Oh, they’re up against it, just think of the people out there now who can play 8,”
“You’ve got Toby [Faletau], Ross Moriarty, James Haskell can actually play 8 as well, Seánie O’Brien, CJ. When you look at that…”
“I’m a big believer of having your back row as a blend of skills. You can’t just have a mass of big ball players, for example, because there’s some work that just has to be done and some guys, that just isn’t their game. So you’ve got to the blend right. I think we can all agree that Sam Warburton is probably going to start at 7 and he has a certain set of skills, and then you’ve got to match another two to that.
“But then you’ve got second rows who can play 6 as well, with Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, and Courtney Lawes. So do you play them second row or at 6 for the lineout and all that, and then who do you put on the bench?”
Heaslip has a point as there is a number of world class operators at Gatland’s disposal. However, as CJ Stander has shown for the past two years and as O’Mahony did against England earlier this year, both men are capable of mixing it with the best.
England underestimated O’Mahony and it cost them a Grand Slam. Warren Gatland will be well aware of the capability of both players and he knows they can do a job if called upon.