Lee Byrne can be a contender for Lions spot, insists Cotter
CLERMONT Auvergne coach Vern Cotter believes Lee Byrne can be a contender for a shock British Lions call this summer.
Byrne celebrated his return to Wales's Six Nations squad by delivering another assured performance in Clermont's 29-0 Heineken Cup hammering of the Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday.
And Cotter insists the 32-year-old former Ospreys full-back, a Test Lion in South Africa in 2009, should be in the thoughts of head coach Warren Gatland as he narrows down his options for the No. 15 jersey.
"I really struggled to see why he wasn't brought back (into the Wales squad) earlier," said the New Zealander after his side booked a home quarter- final against Montpellier.
"He has been great for us; very, very professional and he has had good performances to back it up.
"I think it is a bonus for the Welsh team and I wouldn't take him out of British Lions contention either if he gets a couple of games.
"He is very solid under the high ball, he has still got his speed, he can still break tackles, he is not shy in the contact, he has got a great boot and has got all that experience at 32.
"I am very pleased for him and pleased for Gats and the Welsh team as well. I think it is a wise move.
"You look at what he has put out on the paddock for us and I think he deserves to be brought back.
"He is a Welsh player, he loves his team and loves his country and he was disappointed not to be pulled back in before."
Cotter also believes Byrne's form this season shows there are positives to Welsh players opting to move across the Channel.
"I think he probably needed a change to freshen him up and I think it has done him good coming to France and seeing things from another perspective," he added.
"It has been good for him and made him a better player, at least I think so.
"It has got him out of a bit of a rut that he might have been in when he was playing in Wales for the Ospreys.
"Instead of being criticised, it can be seen as an advantage guys coming out and playing in France.
"As long as they are managed properly they can always come back and play for their country."