Welsh legend Gareth Edwards has highlighted this year’s Six Nations competition as crucial to the chances of those players looking to claim a place on the Lions’ summer tour to South Africa.
The former Welsh scrum-half, who knows all about selection for the Lions having toured three times, believes that for those players from across the four home unions wanting a coveted slot in Ian McGeechan’s final squad, now is the time to make a strong case for inclusion.
"The opportunities will be there for the players involved over the coming weeks to show their skill, prowess, form and fitness," said Edwards, who is an ambassador for HSBC, the principal partner for the Lions tour to South Africa.
"There has always been added spice to this wonderful competition in Lions year, even when I was playing, and that will very much be in evidence again this time around.
"There is no doubt that we’ve reached the crux in terms of selection for the Lions. It will be the players’ performance over the next couple of months that will cement their cases for a place on the tour. They will all have something to prove. It’s always a special competition and even more so with the Lions at the end of it."
Gareth Edwards is an HSBC ambassador for the 2099 Lions tour
And while Edwards believes that Lions selection may not be at the forefront of the players’ minds during the ‘intensity and ferociousness’ of the matches, he insists that players won’t be able to escape the need to shine now if they are to stake a Lions claim.
"Players won’t be going in there thinking ‘I must play well to become a Lion’; that will come secondary to playing well to win the match for their country, claiming a Grand Slam or Triple Crown. However, the bottom line is that the better your national side performs, the better it presents your case for a place in the Lions team.
"Players will obviously want to be the first guys to put their hands up and show Ian McGeechan’s staff they’ve got the credentials to go on this Lions Tour."
And with more than just the usual northern hemisphere bragging rights at stake, Edwards can’t wait for the RBS 6 Nations to begin.
"It’s always a fabulous tournament and a great, old established competition – there is just a heck of a lot to play for this year, more than usual.
"I’m looking forward to it immensely and some of the early games are a tremendous prospect – particularly the Wales versus England game on the second weekend. England down in Cardiff is always a great occasion, a tough encounter and the perfect chance for the Lions management to cast an eye over any possible Lions."