Byrne back in Lions contention

Lee Byrne is a serious contender for a Lions spot according to his club coach. [more]

Byrne back in Lions contention

Lee Byrne is a serious contender for a Lions spot according to his club coach.

Byrne produced another impressive display as Clermont Auvergne booked a Heineken Cup quarter-final home tie with Montpellier thanks to a comfortable win at the Scarlets on Saturday.

The 32-year-old started the first Test for the Lions in South Africa in 2009 but his hopes of featuring on a second successive tour appeared to be getting slimmer after he was repeatedly overlooked by Wales.

But the ex-Ospreys’ fine form has seen him recalled for the Six Nations and Clermont boss Vern Cotter reckons it could be a springboard to even bigger things.

"He’s been great for us – very, very professional and has had good performances to back it up. I really struggled to see why he wasn't brought back (into the Wales squad) earlier," said Cotter.

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"You look at what he has put out on the paddock for us and I think he deserves to be brought back.

"He’s very solid under the high ball, has still got his speed, he can still break tackles, he’s not shy in contact, he’s got a great boot and has got all that experience at 32.

"I think it’s a bonus for the Welsh team and I wouldn't take him out of British & Irish contention either if he gets a couple of games."

Byrne’s fall from favour coincided with his move away from Wales to the Top 14 but Cotter is convinced the move has brought out the best in the 46-times capped full back.

Much has been made of the number of Wales stars following Byrne abroad but Cotter says fellow New Zealander and Lions and Wales boss Warren Gatland shouldn’t worry too much about more of his men following suit.

"I am very pleased for him and pleased for Gats and the Welsh team as well. I think it is a wise move," added Cotter.

"He is a Welsh player, he loves his team and loves his country and he was disappointed not to be pulled back in before.

"I think he probably needed a change to freshen him up and I think it has done him good coming to France and seeing things from another perspective.

"It has got him out of a bit of a rut that he might have been in when he was playing in Wales for the Ospreys. It’s been good for him and made him a better player – at least I think so.

"Instead of being criticised, it can be seen as an advantage guys coming out and playing in France. As long as they are managed properly they can always come back and play for their country."

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