Ben Te'o prepared for shock British and Irish Lions call-up
RUGBY UNION: Ben Te'o is being tipped a bolter for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, less than three years after leaving the NRL.
Te'o, 30, has started only one of his eight Tests for England, yet is touted by the UK's Telegraph as "definite" to claim one of five specialist centre positions in the 37-man squad.
Fellow England centre Jonathan Joseph will reportedly be left out (as will captain Dylan Hartley), while two other English centre options, Owen Farrell (also covers fly-half) and Elliot Daly, are in. Wales' Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, plus Ireland's Robbie Henshaw round out the reported selections.
Former Rabbitohs premiership winner and Queensland State of Origin player Te'o - born in New Zealand and a Samoan Test rugby league player - has heard the speculation and admitted looming Lions selection was a surprising position to find himself in.
"I know the significance of the Lions but I can't say I grew up wanting to be a British Lion," Te'o told the Telegraph.
Should Te'o slot in to inside centre, he may well find himself head to head with fellow cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams, touted as the All Blacks' No. 12 for the three Lions Tests.
The Lions tour just once every four years. The thinking is that Te'o may be included due to his impact from the bench, though he says he doesn't favour that role.
"It's not something I like doing," he told the Telegraph.
"I've never liked not starting a game. When you're in a training camp with England, it's such an intense environment and you put a lot into the training. Then it comes to game day and you only get 20 minutes ... you don't want to say, 'I'm an impact player.' I'd never want to say that.
"You play whatever role you're given but you can start to be seen as a certain type. You play for 20 minutes and feel like you've got so much more to give."
Te'o plays for Worcester in the English Premiership and has apparently impressed Lions coach Warren Gatland. He was lured to English rugby by Test coach Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies boss, who opened the door to becoming a dual international.
"I'd had meetings with Michael Cheika and going back there was a possibility," he said.
"Eddie said he could only pick players who play in the Premiership but, if I came over here and played good rugby, he'd have a look at me. I just chose what felt right."