Attempting to forecast a team for a week ahead is hard enough, so let’s all agree that even Nostradamus might have found naming a side for a rugby Test series four years hence a shade taxing.
But someone’s got to do it and all that.
How will the Lions line up for the opening Test in Australia in 2025?
How many of the tourists from this time around will make the cut again?
Sadly, we feel on reasonably secure ground in saying the Lions legend that is Alun Wyn Jones won’t be there. Now 35, the great lock has fought his last on-pitch battle great tourists. The certainty is he will be a tough act to follow.
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However, exciting youngsters from across the four nations will burst through to make their mark.
Here’s a best guess at what the team will look like.
15. Anthony Watson (England)
At 27, Watson has another Lions tour in him.
Accepted, he’ll need to do some work under the high ball.
But he otherwise has a wide skill-set and he’s young enough to still be going strong four years from now.
14. Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
Why wouldn’t the fastest young wing in British and Irish rugby be in the side for 2025?
Rees-Zammit is only going to get better after his tour this time.
Lethal accelartion, he can turn half chances into tries with seemingly minimal effort and by the time of the next Lions adventure the Wales international should be hitting his prime.
13. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Deserves high marks for standing up to Lukhanyo Am and Damien de Allende over the past three Saturdays. For a centre, it’s hard to imagine a tougher assignment in world rugby.
Henshaw had a fine series.
The Lions will need him for his defensive solidity and his hard running.
He’s one of the best out there.
George North will be 33 when the trip to Australia comes around; don’t completely rule the big man out of contention.
12. Cameron Redpath (Scotland)
Let’s try something different at inside centre, a second playmaker capable of expanding play and bringing the best out of those outside him.
When he made his Test debut for Scotland against England in February, Redpath had ‘future Lion’ written over him.
Time on the ball, nice passing skills, the ability to carry, decent defence — the Bath player has a huge amount going for him.
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)
The only back-three player to start the three Tests for the Lions in South Africa this time.
There are better defenders on the planet, but, that said, his second Test wobble aside, he did well on the tour that’s just finished and is likely to be in contention once again for a wing spot, with Josh Adams among others in the frame.
10. Marcus Smith (England)
If Marcus Smith wanted a reference for the job of steering the Lions from fly-half in 2025, he has pretty much got one from Warren Gatland.
“Marcus Smith is going to be superstar in the game. I think he’s incredibly talented,” said Gatland after the series finished on Saturday evening.
What impressed about Smith in his one outing this time wasn’t just his flair and intuitive skill. It was his ability to operate within a game play as well.
Finn Russell could still be in the mix at 32.
If he is, he’ll challenge strongly as well.
But Smith it probably will be.
9. Tomos Williams (Wales)
The temptation was to pencil the outstanding young Scottish talent Jamie Dobie in here or maybe even take a punt on Nathan Doak, one of the stars of Ireland’s recent U20s Six Nations campaign, coming through.
But let’s hold the belief in Williams.
Tomos Williams in action for Wales
(Image: Wales News Service Ltd)
He’s feisty, combative in defence and beyond dangerous around the fringes. If he could improve his game-management, there’d be no-one to touch him in the British Isles.
1. Wyn Jones (Wales)
A painful injury did for him on Saturday, but before the bump he’d been handling the 20st monster that is Frans Malherbe quite well.
By 2025, Jones will be 33.
It’s not too old. Adam Jones helped oversee a demolition job on Australia’s scrum in 2013 at the age of 32 and Gethin Jenkins won close on 30 caps more after going beyond his 33rd birthday.
Ellis Genge will lead the competition, but Jones may still be the main man.
2. Alfie Barbeary (England)
Maybe the likeliest candidate here is Luke Cowan-Dickie or even Ronan Kelleher, but coming up on the rails is Barbeary, an explosive English youngster.
He’s played in the back row but also at hooker, where Eddie Jones seems to feel the 6ft 2in, 18st forward’s future lies.
It isn’t wildly inconceivable that a Welsh candidate could come through in Dewi Lake — he is outstanding over the ball and a powerhouse carrier. If he could improve his throwing, he’d a match for most hookers.
Right now, though, he has much work to do at lineout time.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
The Irish rock of ages has just completed a fine series in which he barely went back a single inch.
He won’t be going on any 18-30 holidays in 2025 — he’ll be 32.
Chances are he’ll still be master of every scrum he surveys.
4. Maro Itoje (England, capt)
Captain of the next Lions tour squad?
That sounds about right.
He fronted up as well as any Lions forward in South Africa with his all-action game seeing him achieve turnovers, pinch opposition lineout ball, drive strongly and play a full part in manning the barricades.
Ink him in for the Test team now.
5. Adam Beard (Wales)
This one is based on how well he played after being called up as a replacement in South Africa. The big man showed he could perform at Lions level and earned his reward with a cap in the final Test. At 6ft 8in, he boasts the commanding height that never goes amiss at the highest point of the game and he is an expert at defending mauls, a fine tackler and a good carrier who has surprisingly soft hands.
James Ryan is another option.
If everything goes well, Welsh youngster Ben Carter will by then have settled in Test rugby, too.
6. Ryan Baird (Ireland)
Sam Underhill? Injuries seem to follow him around.
Jack Willis? Definitely an option.
Ross Moriarty? He’s as hard as nails and was one of the few Wales players to emerge with credit from the recent Tests against Argentina. He’ll be only 31 in 2025, too.
Just maybe the 6ft 6in Baird will come through, though.
Ryan Baird (left) in action against Taine Basham of Dragons
Is he a lock or will he eventually bed down at six? No-one yet seems to know.
But he’s some talent, with the pace of a back and explosive power. He’s been called a ‘unique athletic prospect’.
If he doesn’t reach the very top, something will have gone badly wrong.
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7. Tom Curry (England)
He’s just come off a tough series but he’s a top player, one who makes ground with ball in hand, tackles hard and achieves turnovers.
And the 23-year-old’s best years are in front of him.
It’s hard to imagine him not featuring in the Tests down under.
8. Caelan Doris (Ireland)
“I’m beyond impressed with him, particularly his football skills, his ability to hold his feet in the line, his ability to carry hard when he needs to carry hard, his tackling, his poaching. I think he’s been exceptional.”
So said Peter O’Mahony of Caelan Doris back in February.
O’Mahony, an ultra-hard Lions Test captain from 2017, isn’t known for throwing around compliments like confetti,
So for him to be so impressed with a youngster must augur well for the 23-year-old Doris.
The Leinster player had time off because of a nasty head knock last term, but he is a big talent who should be at his peak for the tour to Australia.
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