Lions Watch: Five Players Who Stood Out This Weekend

Lions Watch: Five Players Who Stood Out This Weekend

Warren Gatland would have kept a keen on the action around Europe this weekend as the clock counts down for him to finalise his British and Irish Lions Touring squad.

With the touring squad set to be named along with the new captain next week, this past weekend provided the final opportunity for many players to stick their hand up with the European playoffs this weekend meaning many won't be in action. 

We take a look at five players who produced a statement for the Lions boss.

Sam Simmonds - Bristol Bears v Exeter Chiefs

With Exeter out of the Champions Cup, Sam Simmonds had one final opportunity to impress Warren Gatland having been ignored by Eddie Jones and boy did he take it.

The Exeter no.8 was in excellent form for his club in the top of the table clash with the Bristol Bears, with Gatland in attendance at Ashton Gate.

He made over 50 running metres from his seven carries, scored a try, beat three defenders, made two clean breaks and assisted a try in just over an hour. 

He was replaced for the final quarter of the match but by then he displayed all of his finest attributes as he also managed to make all nine of his attempted tackles, won two turnovers and distributed well with five passes.

Dan Biggar - Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints

"If you were looking for a guy to take into the trenches with you, Dan would be the first choice," 

Those were the words of Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Chris Boyd after Dan Biggar played the final 10 minutes of the East Midlands derby on one leg to help Northampton to victory at Welford Road.

"I was delighted for him that we held on to win and I would expect him to be named in the Lions squad. His game is very suited to playing in South Africa and I would certainly pick him." Boyd continued. 

While Boyd is certainly biased with the playmaker starring for his side, there is plenty of merit in his praise and it won't go unnoticed by Gatland. Biggar marshalled Saints around the pitch expertly for the large majority of the match and was his usual brilliant self under the high ball. He kicked well out of hand and spread the ball well on attack. He had a few misfires off the tee but otherwise outplayed his opposite Dan Biggar. 

He also showed true grit and determination as he was twice roughed up by Leicester's second-row Harry Wells and was left hobbling on one leg in the closing stages after tackling a burly Nemani Nadolo with his leg getting trapped under the huge Fijian in a tackle. With Saints down a man, due to a yellow card, and their substitutes all used up Biggar remained on the pitch after it looked as if he would be helped off by the medics. Struggling to walk, he came up with a crucial intervention on Tigers' charging no.8 Jasper Wiese with an excellent tap tackle.

CJ Stander - Leinster v Munster

Warren Gatland certainly won't be short on options at blindside flank or no.8 with options from all four nations fit and firing for their respective teams. However, CJ Stander put in the kind of performance this weekend that may not make the headlines but will certainly bode well for his chances.

The South African born back-rower produced a tidy shift against Leinster where he was superbly accurate in all facets of the game. He carried with vigour for Johann van Graan's men, as per usual, and managed to sit down a few Leinster defenders.

He also managed to win two turnovers on the deck, made 39 running metres from his 13 carries and made a mammoth 17 tackles - a tally not matched in the game. The Munster pack was brimming with top performers with Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Beirne shining in the 3-27 victory over Leinster.

Louis Rees-Zammit - Gloucester v Newcastle

Widely tipped for a call up to the British and Irish Lions squad, Rees-Zammit did his chances of inclusion no harm against Newcastle on Saturday. The Welsh flyer sprinted to 111 running metres, a cool 36 metres more than any other player in the encounter while he also managed to score and assist a try for Gloucester in their 35-24 victory.

He was a driving force in Gloucester's come from behind victory having trailed 7-21 after just 18 minutes. He scored the opening try for Gloucester and set up the equalising score for Willie Heinz as he sped into a gap after grabbing a pass from Kyle Moyle. He showed off his footwork before offloading expertly to Heinz for the score.

With dry conditions expected for most of the games in South Africa, seeing Louis Rees-Zammit charge into open gaps in the defence will certainly be a sight to behold. Heinz was also excellent for Gloucester and with few scrumhalves really sticking their hand up for selection, he could well be in the mix.

Tom Curry - Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks 

After a below-par Six Nations campaign, for his incredibly high standards, Tom Curry looks to be returning to his best in just in time for a place on the plane to South Africa. 

Sale Sharks' director of rugby Alex Sanderson was quick to sing Curry's praises after his side's victory over Worcester saying “Tom has got to be one of the world’s very best players at the moment on both sides of the ball,” 

“He set up a try with an audacious bit of skill, he’s responsible for multiple turnovers and he’s leading as well, bringing the team through with him.

“There really doesn't appear to be an end to Tom’s talents, and jeez, what age is he? He’s still relatively young so the thought of the heights he can reach and where he’s going to go are really exciting.”

In a game where nine tries were scored, Curry was excellent defensively making 17 tackles without missing one. Altough he didn't force a turnover, was a pest at the breakdown slowing down Worcester Warriors' attacks while also making 36 running metres from his nine carries. 

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