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Healey: Lions should pick NZ-born Solomona

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/02/2017
Denny Solomona © Anna Gowthorpe/Press Association Denny Solomona

Sale's Auckland-born winger Denny Solomona has been tipped for a place on the British and Irish Lions' tour to New Zealand by former England back Austin Healey.

The 23-year-old has been drawing rave reviews in England's Premiership since switching from rugby league and scored a first-half hat-trick of tries for Sale against leaders Wasps on Sunday.

Healey told the Mirror that Solomona was "the best finisher in the league" and should be picked to play against the land of his birth.

"He's very physical and positionally sound and he scores tries in confined spaces that other wingers wouldn't finish," Healey said.

"People will say 'give him time to find his feet in union' but why? I already think he's good enough to make the Lions squad.

"Who better is there to match against New Zealand wing Julian Savea? I accept he's an outside bet in terms of experience but Jason Robinson had hardly any in 2001 and that didn't go too badly."

Solomona's selection would be contentious since Sale have yet to register him as an English-born player.

He will be qualified under rugby's residency rule on March 8, the three-year anniversary of arriving in England to play rugby league for the London Broncos.

Speculation has been growing in the British media that he is primed for a call up even though World Rugby will vote in May to extend the residency rule to five years in an attempt to counter the growing problem of nationality swapping.

Solomona's international allegiance has never been entirely clear. Last year, when asked while still playing rugby league for Castleford about his future, he said "my heart's not here, it's not for England".

Solomona told reporters he hoped New Zealand "came calling" before settling to play for Samoa, where his grandparents were born.

But his 42 tries in 2016, a Super League record, hastened a contentious switch to rugby union and reignited the nationality debate in another code.

England already have four New Zealand-born players -- Dylan Hartley, Mako Vunipola, Teimana Harrison and Ben Te'o -- in their squad, all in contention for the 10-match Lions tour.

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