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British and Irish Lions watch: Ken Owens, Johnny Sexton, Anthony Watson, Finn Russell


A decision on when and where the next British and Irish Lions tour will take place is yet to be made, with Australia now crossed off the list.

Nevertheless, head coach Warren Gatland was still busy scouting out possible players at Twickenham and Murrayfield.

Here is who took their chance, and who squandered them, as opportunities to impress the New Zealander in the Six Nations near their end.

English contingent redeem themselves

Gatland was in the Twickenham stands to see a revived England side finally click in victory against France.

A British and Irish Lions tour without some of the leaders in Eddie Jones’ side was perhaps always unimaginable, but several England players showed their ability to stay in the fight when the odds are against them.

The hosts trailed going into the final five minutes until lock Maro Itoje – touted by many as the next Lions captain – crossed to turn things around.

Scrum-half Ben Youngs showed it is not all about youthful stars like opposite number Antoine Dupont and gave a performance that prompted ex-England great Matt Dawson to say he “looked like he’d been poked with a cattle prod”.

Wing Anthony Watson stole the show with a a man-of-the-match performance on his 50th England appearance, scoring a try and making the most clean breaks of any home player with three.

Number eight Billy Vunipola looked to finally be playing his way back into form and brother Mako impressed in the front row too.

Centre Henry Slade kept up the rampaging efforts in midfield we have seen all tournament and fly-half George Ford was cool under pressure as England showed they are capable of more than just a solid set-piece.

Sexton wins head-to-head with Russell

The true battle of the 10s was to be found further north.

Irish veteran of two tours Johnny Sexton was up against Scotland’s Finn Russell, who toured with the Lions in 2017 but did not earn a Test cap.

Former Scotland captain and BBC pundit John Barclay discussed the players “very different styles” before the match but early on Sexton showed he has more than a few tricks in his box.

The 35-year-old sent a cross-field kick which was missed by Keith Earls but eventually tapped down by Robbie Henshaw for Ireland’s opening score.

Russell, combining with the equally exciting Stuart Hogg, showed the kind of instinctive play he has become famed for as he chased the full-back’s kick to add his name to the scoresheet too.

But Russell missed a penalty kick and Sexton did not, extending Ireland’s lead, with Hogg eventually taking over kicking duties after Scotland’s fly-half went off for a head injury assessment.

Sexton continued to display the composure that has seen him earn 98 caps for his country, slotting a tricky penalty from far left to regain Ireland’s lead in the 76th minute.

Owens stakes claim on starting spot

England hooker Jamie George was one of several players Gatland named as “certainties” for his squad in November 2019.

But the 2017 tourist did not exactly get a chance to shine as he started on the bench for the second time this Championship and only replaced Luke Cowan-Dickie in the final 10 minutes at Twickenham.

The most impressive performance by a hooker in round four was perhaps to be found over in Rome, where Wales’ Ken Owens scored two tries.

Owens, who was on the bench for all three Lions Tests in 2017 as George started, made nine carries in the 53 minutes he played against Italy.

He even added 11m kicked to his total of 37m made with an attempt at a chip over the top on the left wing – an amusing highlight in a standout performance.

More nimble was Tadhg Furlong’s side-stepping against Scotland, with the 19st prop looking light as a feather as he danced out of two Scottish tackles – one of which was from fly-half Russell.

But the final word must go to Wales man of the match Josh Navidi, whose gritty performance drew praise from Carol Vorderman on Twitter. The countdown to Gatland’s squad announcement is well and truly on.

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