Picking a British and Irish Lions Tour squad is no simple task with a number of extremely close calls.
With Warren Gatland at the helm once again, we may well be treated to a surprise or two when he selects his squad to take on the world champion Springboks.
Ross Moriarty and Jonathan Joseph were surprising call ups to many when the Lions toured New Zealand back in 2017 while the likes of Joe Launchbury and Dylan Hartley were surprising ommission.
We take a look at 10 players who didn't feature in the Six Nations that Gatland could still turn to for the tour.
Joe Marler - England
Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Joe Marler missed the 2021 Six Nations by choice opting to make himself unavailable for selection. A powerful and well-rounded loosehead, Gatland knows Marler well having faced off against him with Wales while the 30-year-old also toured in 2017. Marler has been in fine form for Harlequins of late and with his over 70 tests to his name, Marler would be a handy player to have around especially with the energy he could bring to the squad.
Sam Underhill - England
Sam Underhill could well have featured for England in the latter stages of the Six Nations having recovered from injury but Eddie Jones opted not to call the 24-year-old flanker into the squad. Meanwhile, the hard-hitting back-rower has been quickly hitting his stride for Bath. A physical player known for his dominant work on defence and at the breakdown, Underhill will certainly be on Gatland's radar.
Sam Simmonds - England
Eddie Jones has ignored the form of the Exeter Chiefs' no.8 over the past few seasons but Gatland has been in attendance for an Exeter Chiefs' game recently and who knows, maybe the Lions boss is a bit more interested in the dynamic ball-carrying Simmonds can offer his back row than the England boss.
Joey Carbery - Ireland
Possibly more of a long shot, Gatland isn't short of flyhalf options judging on Six Nations form but Carbery's willingness to attack the line and his ability to play fullback may interest the former Wales' boss.
Ellis Jenkins - Wales
Back in 2018, Ellis Jenkins would have been right in the conversion for a Lions spot as he was thriving in the extremely competitive back row. Gatland trusted Jenkins with leadership responsibilities during his time in the Wales squad and with the openside now back to full fitness after a long term injury lay off that saw him miss the World Cup, Gatland may well fancy Jenkins as a bolter.
Manu Tuilagi - England
Warren Gatland certainly likes fielding a big ball carrying centre and if Manu Tuilagi is fit enough to tour with the Lions, do not be surprised to hear Tuilagi's name called out when the squad is announced.`
Tuilagi has a proven pedigree at the highest level and has often quickly regained his form following injuries.
Joe Cokanasiga - England
George North and Alex Cuthbert are two examples of how Warren Gatland likes to get the big physical wingers into his teams. Liam Williams and Elliot Daly featured in the tests for the Lions time out in New Zealand but with the physicality, the Springboks will bring, Gatland may revert to a bigger ball-carrying winger. While Duhan van der Merwe is certainly in the run to fill the role, Joe Cakanasiga could be a left field pick for Gatland. Cokanasiga caught the attention back in 2019 but has since struggled with injuries and only recently has recovered fully.
Rhys Webb - Wales
Scrumhalf is one of the positions that has no real standout contenders for the role. Gatland could to the man he was unable to pick in the latter stages of his time as the Wales gaffer provided that Webb is fit. The Ospreys scrumhalf was left out of Wayne Pivac's Six Nations squad this year but was in fine form for Ospreys during the Six Nations before injury struck. Gatland is a fan of the 32-year-old halfback who toured with the Lions in 2017 and could take an educated gamble on Webb.
Caelan Doris - Ireland
This time last year, Caelan Doris was in the kind of form that is often rewarded with a red jersey but 12 months later and the young Irish loose forward is nursing a head injury with no clear return to action date. The skilful 22-year-old is primarily a number 8 but can easily slot onto the side of the scrum. If he is able to prove his fitness before the Tour, he may well get an invite from Gatland despite the numerous options in the position.
Andrew Conway - Ireland
There is hardly a lack of winger/fullback options for Gatland to choose from but Andrew Conway wouldn't be entirely out of place in the squad. Conway was fallen down the pecking order for Andy Farrell but who knows, maybe Gatland will be keen to give him a run.