Sam Warburton picks his 2025 Lions back-row, includes one-cap England star - Ruck

Sam Warburton picks his 2025 Lions back-row, includes one-cap England star

Ex-British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has expressed admiration for England’s debutant Chandler Cunningham-South, predicting that the 20-year-old could be a strong contender for the blindside position in the upcoming tour to Australia next year

The Canterbury ambassador said: “I saw this kid play pre-Christmas because Harlequins were playing Cardiff. There was one kid who stood out and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, how is he not in the England set-up?’

“Fast forward to the Six Nations and he came off the bench the other day for England and had 15 minutes – Chandler Cunningham-South is a serious player. He’s 6ft 5ins, explosive, big, aggressive and technically very good as well. There are not many No6s around and there is always room for an enforcer in your pack.

“You need someone who can spearhead the effort. Joe McCarthy is doing that now for Ireland and Cunningham-South can be that player at six who is really disruptive. In 18 months, he is going to be red hot and in the conversation (for the Lions).

“To play international rugby you have got to have a certain athletic ability at the top level. Look at the top back row players who are having an impact; you have got (Caelan) Doris, Jac Morgan, Ben Earl, Aaron Wainwright. These guys are exceptional athletes, very physical and very tough.

“I look at Cunningham-South and he has got all that – plus size. Probably the biggest and most athletic back row the home nations have at the minute.

“He’s only 20 which means he has still got another 18 months of growth physically. And he has got 18 months of just getting Test match experience, playing with England and playing with Quins.

“He has just got that athletic ability and size I haven’t seen present in any of the home nations, and the important bit is he has got the mentality, the bit between his teeth, that aggressiveness you need at level. And you can’t coach aggressiveness.

“He seems to have the full package; I just hope he gets some game time. Great athlete, good in defence, good ball carrier. He could be that massive six I think the Lions could really benefit from and be destructive.”

Warburton’s 2025 Lions back-row

  • 6. Chandler Cunningham-South (England)
  • 7. Jan Morgan (Wales)
  • 8. Caelan Doris (Ireland)

“Can squat 350kg” – The 6 biggest and strongest 2024 Six Nations beasts

With the 2024 Guinness Six Nations continuing this weekend, here are the six most powerful Six Nations players to watch.

Maro Itoje – England

18st 2lbs. 6ft 5in. Fast, strong, agile, intelligent and super fit. If The Pearl wasn’t an elite rugby player, you’d half expect to see him crushing skulls in Game of Thrones.

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Andrew Porter – Ireland

With a reported squat personal best of a staggering 350 kg, Andrew Porter’s strength resembles an Olympic standard. Porter smashes the 275kg requirements for an elite-level squat for his size, demonstrating how truly powerful he is for a professional athlete.

The Leinster prop is a fearsome scrummager, capable of winning the ball against the run of play through the sheer force of his driving. Ireland’s resident powerhouse lines up in a frightening front row, along with Tadhg Furlong and Ronan Kelleher.

A dedicated Dubliner, Porter has made over 100 appearances for his hometown club Leinster, since his debut in 2016.

England have learned experience of the power of Porter, as the prop muscled his way over the line from close range, in the 2020 Six Nations. Porter’s international accolades are not limited to just Ireland, as he worked his way onto the 2021 British Lions tour to South Africa.