NEW YORK, NY – It has been an immensely challenging year or so for all professional athletes, rugby players included. Thankfully, with the British & Irish Lions’ recent tour of South Africa offering some positives overall, fans are gearing up for a busy calendar of rugby to come. For the players, it’s time to kick on and potentially make a name for themselves ahead of the next tour in 2025.
British and Irish rugby is in relatively good shape, with an array of promising talent emerging. Despite South Africa’s overall win, encouraging signs were on show from a Lions side well and truly up against it for a number of reasons. Certain players offered a combination of excellent performances, and the team looked in sync for most of the tour, and – considering what was essentially a makeshift side coming up against the current world champions – they certainly did themselves and the UK and Ireland proud. The series didn’t exactly serve up a contender for the greatest Lions test match of all time, but the narrow overall loss certainly hasn’t left many fans and pundits alike calling for wholesale changes. We haven’t witnessed a damning analysis on the overall state of British and Irish rugby either. In fact, far from it, especially when you factor in some of the talent emerging on this side of the pond.
With the next Lions tour taking place in Australia in 2025, we thought we’d go through some of the emerging talents who could potentially make the squad for the trip down under and end up embarking on rugby’s ultimate adventure.
Alfie Barbeary – England
Alfie Barbeary has been tipped to explode into next season after his latest injury and given his clear ability. Hopefully, he can put this latest setback behind him. The Wasps hooker and back-row, who can also play centre, possesses both the pace and the footballing skills needed to be a key cog in any future Lions’ wheels, but he could do with an injury-free few years first. There is no doubting Barbeary’s potential, though.
Ryan Baird – Ireland
After scoring a hat-trick against Glasgow in the PRO14, Ryan Baird’s stock immediately rose as he highlighted the immense potential he has. The young Irishman followed that up with a man-of-the-match performance in the Heineken Champions Cup and everyone was rightly raving about him. Given his sheer size and athleticism, he could be a dangerous weapon in Australia but he does need to keep progressing and nail down his place in the Ireland setup.
Freddie Steward – England
Aged just 20, Freddie Steward has been impressing fans of Leicester Tigers, subsequently winning their Young Player of the Year award. The full-back is expected to improve further in the years ahead and become a star man in future England setups. Naturally, he could then establish himself as a Lions contender from there.
Louis Rees-Zammit – Wales
Known for his blistering pace, Louis Rees-Zammit recently exploded onto the scene after a string of impressive performances and rightly made the squad for South Africa. One of the hottest names in rugby at the moment, the 20-year-old’s speed and finishing ability make him a potential superstar of the future, particularly in a Lions shirt. Should he keep progressing, then we could see even more of Louis Rees-Zammit in Australia, but this time as a key man.
Ioan Lloyd – Wales
Ioan Lloyd’s immense talent has been on show for the Bristol Bears for a while now, but he certainly has room to grow. After exploding onto the scene, the young Welshman has various things he needs to work on. Get them right, though, and he could be a household name in the future at fly-half, full-back or on the wing.
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