BERNARD JACKMAN believes his Leinster team-mate Gordon D’Arcy may still have a role to play in this summer’s Lions tour to South Africa, despite being overlooked yesterday by Ian McGeechan.
Keith Earls’ storming performances for Munster in recent weeks have propelled him onto the touring party, possibly at the expense of D’Arcy who didn’t enjoy the most memorable of trips four years ago in New Zealand.
However, injuries may yet play their part and have already done so in previous years, not least in 2005 when an injury to Simon Taylor paved the way for Ryan Jones’ belated and barnstorming contribution.
Jackman said: “There’s a lot of rugby to be played before that tour, and a lot of guys have gone from not being in that squad originally to coming in on stand-by and going out and getting the opportunity. Maybe a couple more players will do that.”
While sorry for D’Arcy, Jackman was understandably delighted for the quartet which did make it — Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Jamie Heaslip — but his congratulations extended southwards too.
“It’s great to have 14 Irish in it, that’s a massive achievement. For Quinny (Alan Quinlan) to get in might be a bit of a shock, but his game against the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup was outstanding.
“He didn’t get as many opportunities during the Six Nations but his form for Munster was top class. It’s brilliant for Keith Earls as well, it’s a great opportunity. He’s kind of the young surprise packet player.”
Jackman was equally thrilled for his fellow hooker, Jerry Flannery, whom he sees as the front-runner for the Test jersey ahead of Lee Mears and Matthew Rees, not least because of his lineout partnership with the touring captain.
“I would have thought Jerry, playing as well as he has for Ireland — and playing with Paul, Donncha and now Quinny maybe in the mix and obviously Wally — they already have a good partnership and I’d say he’s favourite for the Test spot.”
The Leinster squad watched the Lions panel being unveiled on TV at their Riverview base — although Fitzgerald and Heaslip were so nervous they had to watch it in a separate room.
The selection of that youthful pair, as well as Kearney, is demonstrative of the progress all three have made in such a short space of time, and Isa Nacewa has seen that at first hand since joining Leinster last summer.
“I’d never played against them but I’d heard a lot about them. Rob, Jamie and Luke probably work harder than anyone in their training on and off the field. They do a lot of video analysis and they are always leading the way in the gym. For it to pay off with a Lions jersey is good for them.”
Nacewa has experienced the Lions phenomena from the other side of the fence, having been part of the Auckland Blues side that lost 17-13 to the tourists at Eden Park back in 2005.
That was a rare bright spot for Clive Woodward on that sorry tour, but Nacewa doesn’t agree with the sentiment that the Lions have a good deal of credibility to salvage on their latest trip to the southern hemisphere.
“I did play against them in 2005 and there was a huge emphasis on them going down to New Zealand and doing a job but they fell short a bit against the All Blacks.
“I don’t think that is going to happen here. It has been a good, competitive Six Nations campaign and they’ve got a good squad.”
Meanwhile, Leinster coach Michael Cheika has recalled the big guns who missed the Magners League defeat to Edinburgh for Saturday’s clash with Glasgow at the RDS (7.35pm).
Brian O’Driscoll, Rocky Elsom, Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip and Felipe Contepomi return to the panel, though Leinster Academy graduate Fergus McFadden, who kicked 11 points last weekend, is retained.
Leinster squad (v Glasgow Warriors)
Forwards: C Healy, R McCormack, J Fogarty, B Jackman, O le Roux, S Wright, L Cullen, T Hogan, D Toner, M O’Kelly, R Elsom, S Jennings, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Backs: C Keane, P O’Donohoe, C Whitaker, F Contepomi, J Sexton, L Fitzgerald, G D’Arcy, F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, S Horgan, I Nacewa, G Dempsey, R Kearney.
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