Billy Vunipola ruled out: Who should start number 8 for the Lions?

Billy Vunipola ruled out: Who should start number 8 for the Lions?

The Lions suffered a catastrophic blow on Sunday night when Billy Vunipola was forced out of their tour of New Zealand with a shoulder injury.

The England and Saracens wrecking-ball would have been favourite to wear the number 8 shirt for the Lions this summer, leaving head coach Warren Gatland without one of his most valuable assets.


Vunipola appeared to be playing through pain during Saracens’ narrow Premiership play-off defeat at Exeter on Saturday and the Lions duly confirmed the worst on Sunday night.

The question is now being asked who will fill the massive void.

CJ Stander

CJ Stander became only the third South African-born player to be included in a British & Irish Lions touring squad in the professional era. 

Equally at home playing No 6 or No 8, Stander showcased his dynamic ball-carrying ability as he scored a hat-trick during Ireland’s 63-10 rout against Italy during the Six Nations.

The 26-year-old has developed into a world-class loose forward whose ball-carrying power may not be quite as bulldozing as Vunipola’s, but it’s not far off. He is exactly what you need to take on a big Kiwi pack.

England internationals Mike Catt and Matt Stevens were the two other South African-born players to represent the Lions.

Taulupe Faletau

In a whirlwind introduction to Test rugby, he then appeared in all five matches of Wales’ Grand Slam-winning 2012 RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign, excelling throughout the championship.

So by the time of The British & Irish Lions 2013 Tour to Australia, the No.8 had already established himself as one of Wales’ most consistent performers and was selected for his first Lions Tour.

At the age of just 22 he played a key role on that Tour, starting the third and decisive Test against the Wallabies in Sydney, playing all 80 minutes in the 41-16 victory.

In recent times the back-rower has struggled with injuries but he’s started to rediscover his best form, scoring a fantastic hat-trick for Bath against Gloucester last month.

Despite being only being 26, he’ll be one of the most experienced Test veterans Gatland has in his squad.

Ross Moriarty

Ross Moriarty is the son of former Wales back row Paul Moriarty, while his uncle Richard also played international rugby so it’s no surprise that youngest member of the clan has taken to Test rugby seamlessly.

Since being selected to start against England at Twickenham in May 2016, he has been an almost ever-present member of the Welsh back row including in this year’s RBS 6 Nations.

The 22-year-old was so impressive during the Championship, he managed to hold onto his place despite the return from injury of 2013 British & Irish Lion Faletau.

Despite being the least experienced of the three options, Moriarty is a big hitter who surely wouldn’t let anybody down.

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