There’s now exactly a month before Warren Gatland names his British and Irish Lions squad for the tour of South Africa.
Fresh from a Six Nations title, Welsh representation should be fairly strong in Gatland’s squad.
But after four defeats in Europe, the regions now won’t be in action for three weeks. In fact, they just have one more round of Welsh derbies in the makeshift Rainbow Cup before Gatland confirms his touring squad.
So for the Welsh boys, their work in earning selection is effectively over. There’s little more they can do to convince Gatland.
But where do they all stand now with the Lions auditions done and dusted?
Alun Wyn Jones
The Wales skipper had his doubters before the Six Nations. Could he continue to defy the ravages of time and produce the type of performances that would warrant selection in a packed second-row selection?
More fool them. A stellar campaign has not only put him firmly on the plane, but probably first in line to be the tour captain.
During the autumn, Faletau looked like a passenger in a Wales team that were still ironing out some kinks in their attacking shape. Now that’s all sorted, he’s back to the world-class form that saw him go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks in the Lions jersey four years ago.
Back-row is a competitive area this year, but Faletau is nailed on as the first No. 8 in the squad.
Having just spoken about the competitive nature of the back-row, it might seem strange to then put all of Wales’ starting back-rowers as certainties to tour.
But in the case of Navidi, it’s testament to what he offers to his side. With a physicality that belies his size and frees up his back-row colleagues to shine, he is perhaps pound-for-pound one of the most effective players in Test rugby. Gatland missed him dearly in that 2019 World Cup semi-final against South Africa – he likely won’t entertain Navidi’s absence this time around.
The only thing that might stop him touring is injury – having hurt his shoulder against London Irish on Friday.
Again, another Welsh back-row who is surely on the plane. Tipuric has been on Lions tours before, but he’s always had compatriot Sam Warburton ahead of him.
This time, he’s firmly the first-choice Welsh openside and his class continues to shine through. There’s some strong opensides in contention, but Tipuric has to tour.
Having been missing in the autumn, Ken Owens returned for the Six Nations and immediately showed his worth – helping stabilise Wales’ lineout.
England’s duo of Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie aside, there aren’t too many standout hookers in contention. As such, Owens was a cert.
Finished the Six Nations as Wales’ full-back, Williams could prove crucial to Gatland’s plan to defeat the Springboks.
Much of Gatland’s gameplan will likely resemble the kick-heavy blueprint from that World Cup semi-final two years ago, with Williams’ bomb-defusing ability vital on both the front and back foot.
His best campaign in a Welsh jersey for some time, Biggar grew as the tournament went on and his performance in Paris was top-quality.
Almost certain to be one of the travelling fly-halves – although the presence of Finn Russell as a wildcard does prevent you saying that without absolute certainty.
The unheralded hero of Wales’ success, prop Jones looks set to be one of the loose-heads who will be travelling to South Africa.
The likes of Mako Vunipola, Ellis Genge, Rory Sutherland and Cian Healy make it no forgone conclusion though.
The man of the moment, many have already put Rees-Zammit in their Lions XVs.
That may be a tad premature, with the physicality and aerial threat of the Springboks to consider when picking the youngster, but the chances of him touring are far better than him not.
The Six Nations didn’t start off ideally for Adams, but he finished it like he’d never been away.
Wing is another spot that is full of competition, but Adams’ nous for scoring, along with his steely Test grit, will stand him in good stead to tour.
Something of a revelation at outside centre, Gatland will have been pleased to see North shine in the position that he attempted to move him to on a number of occasions.
The ability to play on the wing as well as midfield is ideal for a Lions tour and you’d expect him to tour for a third time – with North having some unfinished business after a disappointing tour in 2017.
A fine Six Nations for Francis, with his clearout work as effective as his efforts at the scrum.
He’ll certainly be there or thereabouts, but some strong tight-head competition could just edge him out.
The scrum-half spot is a tough one to call. Ben Youngs, Ali Price and Conor Murray are all contenders to go, while the Welsh scrum-half nominees are a little unclear.
Davies started three matches in the Six Nations and was a favourite of Gatland, but ultimately those starts came because of injuries to others.
Again, it’s hard to know exactly where Tomos Williams stands in the Lions’ scrum-half pecking order.
He appears to be ahead of Davies in Wayne Pivac’s eyes, but injury ruined his Six Nations audition and gave Davies the jersey for most of it. Could be a flip of a coin, this one.
The 2017 man of the series got better as the Six Nations went on and he got more minutes under his belt.
However, he was playing at 12, rather than 13. The question is where does Gatland see him? If it is 13, has he played there enough to prove he still has what it takes for a third Lions tour?
A Champions Cup quarter-final in his natural 13 position would have been ideal next weekend, but it wasn’t to be for Davies or the Scarlets.
It’s a big call for Gatland to make.
Not really been talked about, having been injured against Scotland in the second round of Six Nations fixtures.
But he remains one of the finest defensive full-backs in the world and Gatland will think long and hard before deciding to overlook Halfpenny.
Having missed out on selection in the autumn, Beard was a revelation in the Six Nations – proving in key figure in turning Wales’ ailing lineout around.
Second-row selection is stacked, with the likes of Maro Itoje, James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne just some of the contenders. But Gatland knows Beard and could be tempted by him as an outsider.
Like Beard, Hill impressed when given the opportunities in the Six Nations. Gatland knows him well, having handed him the Wales captaincy in the past.
He also was one of the ‘Geography Six’ called up by Gatland four years ago to New Zealand. A Lions call-up now would be a fitting end to that particular storyline. Like Beard though, the odds are against it.