In most Lions years, the preceding Five or Six Nations championship has been a two-month audition with players literally clambering over each other to bring themselves to the selectors’ attention.
The most recent version however, which culminated in the wheels falling off England’s chariot in Cardiff last Saturday, has seen a worrying trend of players’ diminishing form ruling them out of, rather than into, Warren Gatland’s plans.
In every position there has been a genuine pre-tournament contender for a First Test start play sufficiently poorly to turn a close-run contest into a one-horse race, or a one-horse race into a close-run contest.
Just look at the options who have moved backwards in the last five games, Chris Ashton, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Jamie Heaslip – even Wales’ under-performing scrum-half Mike Phillips has made the No.9 berth an interesting debate.
As a result, it seems Gatland will be picking from a position of weakness rather than strength, with many of those he’d pencilled into, looking rather faint after a championship that started with a bang and fizzled out. Unless you were at the Millennium Stadium, of course.
At loosehead Cian Healy’s brush with the disciplinarians has damaged his challenge to Gethin Jenkins while at tighthead Cole has been a shadow of himself and Euan Murray has had an awful tournament.
Adam Jones merely need turn up five minutes before kick-off in his pyjamas and slippers.
At hooker Tom Youngs has enjoyed a solid first Six Nations but does not yet look a Lion, Dylan Hartley can’t even get in the England side and Rory Best has had his life-force sucked away by the deficiencies of the Irishmen around him.
At the start of the tournament who’d have thought Richard Hibbard would have been the next man standing. At least the Osprey is one player to have found excellent form.
Gray would have been an absolute certainty at second row but wasn’t playing well enough even before his serious hamstring injury.
The early international zest of Joe Launchbury has dissipated and the Irish pack is in a mess. Which leaves us with Welsh duo Ian Evans and Alun Wyn Jones, with Geoff Parling and Donnacha Ryan lending support.
And with Chris Robshaw so comprehensively outplayed last weekend, Tom Wood needing a regular position, the Irish trio failing to fire and Scotland providing little more than hard workers, it is difficult not to see Gatland opting for Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton on the flanks.
The leading contender at fly-half, has emerged as the best option having barely played. In his hamstrung absence Jonny Sexton’s reputation has soared above Owen Farrell’s and Dan Biggar’s.
And decent game has lifted Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies above their rivals.
Not a vintage year, it has to be said.