Back before the Lions squad was picked, one of the national newspapers across the border ran through the runners and riders for back-row spots.
Chiselled in at the top of the ‘Definites’ section was the name Tom Curry.
‘Powerful, skillful, excellent despite England’s form,’ read the glowing description next to the name.
All the way down the list, way beyond the ‘Probables’ section, sat those deemed as ‘Possible’ tourists.
Stationed slap bang at the bottom was Justin Tipuric. Far less words were committed to paper to extol his virtues.
‘Broad skill base,’ was all they wrote. A backhanded compliment if ever you saw one.
Of course, Warren Gatland deemed Tipuric and another ‘possible’ tourist, Hamish Watson (‘Strong in attack’), as much more than possibilities – selecting them both, along with Curry, in his 37-man squad.
Yet that attitude that one is far beyond the others still seemingly remains.
Look at most Lions XVs picked by pundits and Curry is likely the openside selection you’ll see.
Watson gets his share of the scraps, while Tipuric just doesn’t appear to feature in many – if any – of the teams picked by former players or writers.
Will Greenwood’s pick? Curry.
Sir Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer? Curry.
Dylan Hartley? Curry.
Chris Robshaw? Well, you get the idea by now.
Now this isn’t to say Curry isn’t deserving of such plaudits. He’s a fine player, if perhaps a little overhyped because England have lacked an elite openside flanker for the best part of two decades.
And the argument that he’s the best option to take on South Africa is a fair one to make, given his physicality.
The complete lack of noise around Tipuric, though, is ultimately a little strange.
Perhaps it’s a little soon to be getting out the violins for a player who has won Six Nations aplenty, reached two World Cup semi-finals, toured with the Lions twice before and has 85 caps for his country.
But there is a tiny element that Tipuric’s all-round game is often used as a stick to beat him with when it comes to the highest heights of the game – such as Lions tours.
In his previous two tours, Tipuric didn’t miss a single tackle yet was unfortunate to be stuck behind tour captain and compatriot Sam Warburton, limiting his Test exposure to just 25 minutes.
With Warburton gone, Tipuric has finally gone into a Lions tour as the undisputed first-choice in his own country – so the fact that he’s still tipped by many to not feature in the Test XV is a blow.
Nullifying the disruptive work of Pieter Steph du Toit is one of the biggest challenges facing Gatland and his Lions so it’s easy to see why many consider the likes of Curry higher than the Welshman.
That’s why Gatland’s squad is packed with a host of hybrid locks like Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes who can also add physicality to the back-row if needed.
But it’s also a forward pack with link players in the second-row and pace in the back-row. Taulupe Faletau, Sam Simmonds and Jack Conan will all be asked to stalk the wide channels when they’re selected at the back of the scrum, while Tadhg Beirne could do something similar on the blindside.
Nullifying the South African physicality is one thing – you can do that through smart tackle choice just as well as big hits – but it’s foolhardy to try outmuscle the Boks.
England couldn’t do it in Japan two years ago – losing comfortably in the World Cup final.
Instead, you’re better off being smart.
Looking at his midfield options, Gatland’s centres will be the battering rams in South Africa. His back-row will be expected to show some guile, some thought and some handling ability out wide.
The Lions will largely kick the ball to secure possession and territory – with Tipuric having been crucial to Wales’ kick chase game in Paris this year, tailing the chaser to ensure there’s a breakdown option in support whatever happens – but they won’t run relentlessly into a green wall for 240 minutes for the sake of it.
Dictating the tackle through tip-on passes, getting free around the edge and moving the point of contact in the middle of the park – that’s what Gatland is looking to achieve through his selection of loose forwards with good hands.
No one epitomises that better than Tipuric.
And, if as expected, his No. 8 is going to work around the touchlines in space, then you want an openside who can work alongside them.
Tipuric dovetailed in the wide channels with Faletau to brilliant effect during the Six Nations, while he also put forwards on the front-foot in the tight with little slip passes.
He’s as comfortable in the middle of the pitch as he is on the edges. As solid a defender as he is a spectacular footballer.
Would you start Justin Tipuric ahead of Tom Curry? Have your say in the comments below
Calling all British and Irish Lions fans, we want your views.
You can become even more involved with WalesOnline’s Lions coverage by signing up to leave comments on stories, delivering your verdict, discussing the biggest breaking news and also chatting to our journalists.
Click here to get started.
Crucially, given how South Africa will target the lineout and the Lions will in turn try and negate it, he’s been Wales safe ball there for years.
A broad skill base? Undoubtedly.
But for how Gatland is going to approach the Boks, that’s not such a backhanded compliment.
Instead, it might just be the perfect job description.