Kieran Hardy has emerged as a surprise contender for the wide-open Lions scrum-half berth on the tour of South Africa.
According to media reports, the Scarlets and Wales No 9 is among the bolters on the long list Warren Gatland has drawn up ahead of naming his squad on Thursday.
Gatland has written to more than 50 players asking about their availability for the eight-match trip.
The suggestion is the four-times capped Hardy is one of those who have been sounded out.
Scrum-half is one of the hardest positions to call in terms of squad selection given the raft of players that have been identified as contenders.
It’s widely expected that vastly experienced Irishman Conor Murray – who started all three Tests on the 2017 tour of New Zealand – will get the call.
But, after that, it could be any two others from more than half a dozen completing the three-man scrum-half contingent.
England’s Ben Youngs had been very much in the frame, but he has made himself unavailable as his wife is expecting their third child.
Wales duo Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams have been consistently mentioned as contenders, along with Scotland’s Ali Price and Ulster’s John Cooney, while Rhys Webb – who is close to returning from shoulder surgery – has his supporters too.
But there are also a number of bolters in the frame.
Bath’s Ben Spencer, who – like Hardy – has won just four caps, has reportedly received an availability letter, as has Harlequins veteran Danny Care.
The 34-year-old Care hasn’t played Test rugby since winning his 84th cap for England against Japan at Twickenham in November 2018, having been cast aside by Eddie Jones.
But he has been in outstanding form for ‘Quins this season and that has clearly been noted by Gatland and his fellow coaches.
Then there is Hardy.
It would be some story if he got the call, as he was playing for Jersey in the English Championship three seasons ago and only made his Wales debut in November.
But it has been a real breakthrough campaign for the Carmarthen-born half-back.
After winning his first cap versus Georgia in the autumn Nations Cup, he was then selected to start the final game of that tournament against Italy, marking the occasion with a try.
Included in the Six Nations squad ahead of the omitted Webb, he was seen as third-choice behind Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies.
But with Williams damaging his hamstring in the opener against Ireland, Hardy moved up the pecking order.
Then, after making a lively contribution as a replacement for fellow Scarlet Davies against Scotland at Murrayfield, he was selected to start at home to England.
He rose to the challenge, scoring an opportunist try from a tap penalty in the 40-24 win, before picking up a hamstring injury that cut short his tournament.
But he returned to action for the Scarlets last month and is now fit and firing again.
What Hardy offers is speed – speed of pass, speed of thought and speed across the ground.
He brings tempo in everything he does.
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The long pass he fired out to Willis Halaholo just minutes after coming on against Scotland perfectly illustrated the quality of service he offers his back-line, as it paved the way for Liam Williams’ try.
Hardy also knows his way to the whitewash himself, with a keen eye for a gap in the fringe defence, while his support running is one of his great strengths.
He has a touch of the Antoine Dupont about him with the way he reacts instantly when there’s a break and picks the right line to pop up on a team-mate’s shoulder and take the scoring pass.
With Youngs having ruled himself out of contention for the trip to South Africa, opportunity could now knock for Hardy.
Selection for the Lions would complete a remarkable rise for a young man who has done it the hard way, leaving the Scarlets for Jersey in 2016 in search of game time and fighting his way back to become a Six Nations title winner.