It’s nearly three years since the so-called ‘Geography Six’ caused a storm when they were called up to the Lions squad midway through the tour.

Coach Warren Gatland summoned them to protect his Test 23 from having to be on the bench during midweek matches between the Tests against the All Blacks.

It was a pre-planned move that arguably made lots of sense but the problem was the players given the prestigious honour of a Lions call-up were chosen largely for geographical reasons.

Two players were brought from Scotland’s tour of Australia and four from Wales’ trip to New Zealand, where they faced Tonga in Auckland, before moving on to Samoa. The plan was based on logistics and convenience as the six didn’t have far to travel to join his squad.

The decision provoked outrage in some quarters, with Gatland being accused of devaluing the Lions jersey because most of the six weren't considered to be "next in line" if there was to be a permanent call-up.

They were all named on the bench for the 34-6 midweek win over the Chiefs in Hamilton and the 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes in Wellington, but only Scotland pair Finn Russell and Allan Dell managed brief appearances as substitutes.

Gatland later admitted being rocked by the criticism and claimed it had persuaded him to only replace players in those fixtures who had suffered injuries.

So what become of the infamous Geography Six who faced unfair derision from some? We examine their subsequent careers and assess their chances of becoming bona fide Lions in South Africa next year.

TOMAS FRANCIS

Almost got on for the Lions against the Hurricanes for a flagging Dan Cole, stripping to his playing kit and prowling a touchline, but it wasn’t to be as the England prop saw out the game.

Francis’ Wales career trajectory rocketed afterwards as he established himself as Gatland’s first-choice tighthead.

He improved his all-round game and was a key figure in last year’s Six Nations Grand Slam and a record 14-match winning streak.

The 27-year-old became the cornerstone of the Wales scrum and, arguably, the key moment of last year’s World Cup from a Welsh point of view occurred when he departed with a serious shoulder injury during the semi-final with South Africa.

Tomas Francis of Wales goes off the field injured against South Africa

The Springboks, as they did while trouncing England in the final, were able to capitalise on the loss of Francis by turning the screw at vital scrums to win penalties or shove Wales backwards.

Francis’ cap tally stands at 48 but he was badly missed as he recovered from the surgery he had following the global showpiece with scrum issues being a real thorn for Wales in the Six Nations.

2021 LIONS PROSPECTS: Has been a massive hit since 2017 and will be a genuine contender to make Gatland’s party for South Africa if he can regain fitness and form.

GARETH DAVIES

He was Wales’ first-choice scrum-half under Gatland after Rhys Webb became ineligble following a move into exile with French club Toulon.

Davies revelled as he took his international try count to 14 in 53 appearances with his sniping runs and poacher like instincts as he proved a master of the interception.

Gatland and defensive guru Shaun Edwards also used him to rocket out of defence and put pressure on the opposition outside-half.

Davies had an eye-catching World Cup but didn’t hit the same form in this season’s Six Nations as Gatland’s successor Wayne Pivac employed different attacking and defensive tactics.

Pivac couldn’t make up his mind on who was his starting choice with Davies vying with Tomos Williams before being ditched from the match-day 23 for the postponed clash with Scotland with the now eligible Webb being recalled.

2021 LIONS PROSPECTS: Gatland knows what he can do and scrum-half is a potentially problem position which you can safely say is currently wide open when it comes to candidates.

CORY HILL

Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll, who captained the 2005 Lions in New Zealand and went on four tours, had highlighted the strength of feeling towards Gatland’s call-ups back in 2017.

“I wasn’t even aware who Cory Hill was to be honest with you. I’m a pundit and I’m meant to know these things,” he had rapped.

O’Driscoll later apologised to Hill and, if he didn’t know him then, would certainly now with the lock having gone on to captain Wales and star during last year’s Six Nations triumph over England in Cardiff.

Gatland described him as his most improved player with the skilled and clever Hill being handed responsibility for the lineout.

An ankle injury sustained scoring a vital try against England and a shin problem sustained in training put him out of the World Cup and he didn’t reappear for Wales until this Six Nations.

2021 LIONS PROSPECTS: Hill is clearly held in high regard by Gatland and, if he can stay healthy, has a chance of making the Lions party with his versatility and ability to feature at blindside flanker holding him in good stead.

KRISTIAN DACEY

Gareth Davies, Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey and Tom Francis were unused
Gareth Davies, Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey and Tom Francis were unused

The Cardiff Blues player hadn’t even been one of Wales’ top two hookers during the 2017 Six Nations, so the outcry to his call-up was expected, particularly as then England captain Dylan Hartley had been ignored.

Dacey’s Wales career soared the following autumn when he appeared in all four Tests, starting in the victories over Georgia and South Africa.

Injuries at the wrong time have since hampered his international chances with the now 29-year-old not having added to his eight caps.

2021 LIONS PROSPECTS: Extremely slim unless he can find the fitness and form to force his way back into the Wales reckoning.

ALLAN DELL

Had 10 minutes for the Lions against the Chiefs in Hamilton following the early sin-binning of Joe Marler for a reckless shoulder hit.

Dell, 28, has been almost a constant presence in the Scotland match-day squad since the summer of 2018.

An Under-20 World Championship winner with South Africa in 2012, the Humansdorp-born Dell would be returning home if he was picked by Gatland next year.

He qualifies for Scotland through a grandmother and has been capped 32 times, coming off the bench in their four completed matches in this year’s Six Nations.

2021 LIONS PROSPECTS: Gatland has some big names to consider at prop so Dell is likely to be on the fringe of the selection debate.

FINN RUSSELL

The mercurial play-maker was the player who came closest to making Gatland’s original party for the trip to New Zealand.

But he lost out to Wales outside-half Dan Biggar after flopping during Scotland’s collapse against England in the 2017 Six Nations.

Russell made a brief five-minute appearance for the Lions against the Hurricanes while Biggar was undergoing a head injury assessment.

He made a big money move to Racing 92 in Paris from Glasgow Warriors and was a key figure for Scotland until falling out with coach Gregor Townsend before the Six Nations and leaving the squad's camp.

They had flopped at the World Cup, failing to get out of their group after losing to Japan and Ireland, and have done better this Six Nations with the promising Adam Hastings having replaced Russell at No.10.

2021 LIONS PROSPECTS: An entertainer and maverick whose off the cuff talent who may be at odds with Gatland’s more regimented tactics.

Gatland is also unlikely to have taken kindly to Russell’s bust-up with Townsend and wouldn’t want any potentially disruptive figures in his party so the outside-half’s chances have been hit.