All Blacks great Jerome Kaino has named Justin Tipuric as one of the best back rowers in world rugby right now.
Tipuric faces a battle to gain a spot in the Lions Test XV, with England’s Tom Curry the current favourite and Hamish Watson also pushing hard for the number seven jersey.
But Kaino said he is a massive fan of the Welshman when naming him alongside Ardie Savea, Gregory Alldritt and fellow Lions player Sam Simmonds as the best around.
When asked for his top three back rowers, he told Jamie Roberts’ RugbyPass show: “I always really enjoy watching loose forwards play. I’d say Ardie Savea. Justin Tipuric, I love watching that guy play.
“I think I’ll have to choose four, with Sam Simmonds and Gregory Aldritt too.”
Tipuric is highly regarded in New Zealand, with former All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick a huge fan of a player he describes as “phenomenal”.
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Former Ireland captain Rory Best previously said of Tipuric on a House of Rugby UK podcast : “I genuinely think he’s one of the best I’ve played with.”
And fellow Lion from 2017 James Haskell revealed: “We wondered whether he did something to one of Gats’ relatives or something, because of the fact that he didn’t get more game-time. We asked him: “What have you done, mate?!
” Sam Warburton is a fantastic player but in any other team, he (Tipuric) would have started. All-round skill-set, engine on him, ability over the ball and, just, overall how good he was.”
Despite being rated so highly by his peers, Gatland is expected by many to opt for the physicality of Curry against the Boks, with Tipuric forced to take on a back-up role once again.
Simmonds is also likely to be second in line for the number eight shirt behind Taulupe Faletau despite his record-breaking exploits for Exeter this season.