LESS than three years after quitting the NRL to switch codes, Ben Te’o is poised to be named in rugby union’s most famous touring squad, the British & Irish Lions.
The South Sydney premiership winner has played eight Tests and started just once for England but is tipped to make the 37-man squad for New Zealand, setting up a potential showdown against Sonny Bill Williams.
Te’o would become the first NRL player in history to make the Lions squad.
The Lions vs. All Blacks series in June will be the biggest rugby event of 2017, and Te’o’s mooted selection would cap a remarkable transition to the 15-man code.
The 30-year-old would beat far more experienced centres from Wales, Ireland and Scotland if he makes coach Warren Gatland’s squad, to be named on Wednesday.
England’s Telegraph newspaper reported that Te’o will be on the trip after Lions assistant coaches Steve Borthwick and Rob Howley watched in the stands as he helped Worcester defeat Bath last weekend.
Te’o and Williams both play at inside centre.
Williams is expected to start at No.12 for the All Blacks during the series.
League fans will still remember Te’o’s shoulder charge of Williams during the Rabbitohs match against the Roosters in 2014.
Both men quit league after that season, with Williams returning to the All Blacks while Te’o joined Irish club Leinster.
In late 2015 Te’o moved to Worcester and by June last year England coach Eddie Jones picked him for the tour of Australia.
But Te’o did not play a game against the Wallabies, and had to wait until last November to make his Test debut, against South Africa.
He did come off the bench as England defeated the Wallabies in December, and was a part of their Six Nations winning campaign this year.
However, he was a secondary midfield option, with Owen Farrell the first-choice inside centre.
With only five midfield players to be selected for the Lions, it would be a bold move by Gatland to select Te’o given he is not a first-choice starter for his country, given he would inevitably take a spot ahead of others who are regular starters.
Te’o was born in New Zealand, however in league he played a Test for Samoa and seven State of Origin games for Queensland.
The Lions tour once every four years, and many great northern hemisphere players never made a trip.
Gatland was in charge of the Lions in 2013 when they defeated the Wallabies 2-1, a series result that ultimately led to the sacking of Australia’s coach Robbie Deans.
But the Lions have not won a series against the All Blacks since 1971, with their last visit in 2005 resulting in a humiliating 3-0 whitewash.
Originally published as League Lion! Te’o tipped for SBW showdown
SOURCE: newsnow sport