Sports

Adam Beard’s Lions call-up was slammed far and wide but he’s just made a mockery of his critics

When Warren Gatland handed Kyle Sinckler a late Lions call-up, he told the England prop to “stick two fingers up at him” over his decision to not pick him in the first place.

When Gatland then pulled Wales lock Adam Beard into the squad to replace tour captain and talisman Alun Wyn Jones, we don’t know who he’d have told the Ospreys second-row to aim two fingers at.

Or, indeed, if he even did.

Read more: Warren Gatland eases Lions injury concerns over Louis Rees-Zammit and Duhan van der Merwe

But, if he did, it wouldn’t take too many guesses to assume where those fingers might have been facing.

The reaction to Beard’s selection in some quarters was less than kind, shall we say.

Plenty across the Irish sea cried foul that Leinster lock James Ryan was once again overlooked. Given Ryan’s class some of that was hurt was fair, but some of it simply wasn’t.

One site went big on a piece slamming Gatland for his ‘Welsh bias’. Others on social media followed suit.

All that bellyaching was made to look a little foolish when it emerged that Ryan had an injury – albeit one he would still overcome . Needless to say, the delete button took a beating – particularly on that piece on the so-called Welsh bias.

Some would have remained staunch though over the exclusion of Ryan, despite Beard’s pedigree – unbeaten in his first 14 Tests and integral to two Six Nations titles in recent years – belying his relatively humble status in the world game.

Well, those opinions might have changed after his Lions bow against the Sharks on Wednesday.

Beard was to the fore as he set about proving he belonged. At the end of the 80 minutes, the only starting forward left on the pitch had underlined exactly why Gatland called him up.

For starters, there were the 14 tackles he made – with the number five jersey seemingly never too far from the action.

There was also a crucial pair of turnovers that led to tries for Duhan van der Merwe.

The first saw him affect a choke tackle alongside second-row partner Iain Henderson – ripping the ball away and getting an offload out wide.



Adam Beard was in the thick of it from early on – forcing a turnover as part of a choke tackle alongside Iain Henderson

The second saw him pounce on a loose ball after a solid counter-ruck from Rory Sutherland, getting the ball away from the ruck quickly to spark the move

There was also the smart handling he showed for Josh Adams’ hat-trick try.

Running as the wide option in a pod of three – a formation the Lions have used well so far to generate width in their opening three matches – he takes a pass from Elliot Daly.



Lining up as the wide option in a pod of three, Daly hits Beard with a miss-two pass

Regardless of what option Daly hits, the options are there to either carry hard or produce a tip-on pass. It’s all about having the skill to do so.

Beard has those soft hands, as evidenced by a near identical scenario during the Six Nations.

On this occasion, Beard again gets the pass away to Faletau – even though he has to jump to take Daly’s pass.



Beard has to jump to take the pass, but still gets the pass away to Faletau

Such silky skills, getting the pass away to the Lions No. 8, will not have gone unnoticed with the coaches.

Yet perhaps the main reason Beard was selected, and the facet of the game that will really help his Test credentials, is his lineout defence.

Whenever the Sharks had a lineout, Beard was usually disrupting matters.

The first lineout the Sharks had saw Henderson get off the ground to put the jumper under pressure, but as the ball is batted back, Beard is already making his way through the lineout – putting even more pressure on scrappy ball for the hosts.



The first Sharks lineout of the game sees Henderson get off the ground to provide pressure on the jumper, while Beard moves through the lineout to inflict even more pressure

Not long after, he was showing the benefits of his ridiculous height and telescopic arms, dragging in Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha to the maul – meaning that the South African couldn’t get the ball away cleanly from proceedings.



A later lineout sees Beard reach through the lineout to drag the Sharks hooker back into the maul

All of the above proved Beard belonged in a Lions jersey.

The next step now is pushing for a Test spot.

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ALSO READ  Warren Gatland Q&A: Why I chose Stuart Hogg as Lions captain for opener and what I want from Louis Rees-Zammit
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