Lions legend Keith Wood believes the forthcoming Six Nations tournament will provide the perfect springboard for Britain and Ireland’s best players to press their claims for a Lions spot.
The former Harlequins and Munster hooker was one of the most-celebrated figures on both the 1997 and 2001 Lions tours, playing in five Tests and making a total of 11 appearances in Lions colours.
Now a director on the Board at London Irish, Wood believes the 2009 Lions tour will bring an added dimension to this year’s competition by bringing out the best in possible Lions contenders.
"For a lot of players this Six Nations could be the only chance they have to get themselves on a Lions tour," Wood told SunSport.
"You spend the build-up desperately trying to improve yourself, trying even harder to get on that plane.”
Wood, who was part of a series-winning squad the last time the Lions travelled to South Africa, admits that different players will deal with the extra sense of anticipation that a Lions tour brings in different ways.
For some, the opportunity to impress will be too much, but for others, the presence of a Lions tour on the horizon could be the making of their careers. For Wood, it was definitely the latter.
"Some will crack under the pressure of that. But there will be others that shine and earn a call-up from nowhere.
"Personally, I loved that pressure as a player."