The British and Irish Lions’ tour of New Zealand is only 15 months away and competition for places is already beginning to heat up at this year’s RBS 6 Nations.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ The Rugby Club Agenda, former Lion Alex Corbisiero discussed who, on current form, would make his pack. Here are his choices.
“You have got two great English looseheads in [Joe] Marler and Mako [Vunipola], but both have been trading starts and neither have had that stellar game yet.
“Jack McGrath has been under Cian Healy for a while now, but he is really starting to grow in that role. He is starting to do a lot of things Cian does well: ball carrying, his work rate in the loose, his set piece has come on well.
“I thought Ireland scrummaged very well against England. He had to deal with Dan Cole and that is a good measuring stick of how a prop is coming along on the chain.”
2. Dylan Hartley (England)
“He has been the spearhead of the England [Six Nations] campaign. Especially the last two games, he really rose to the challenge. I know how good a leader he is and I know he has got that edge to him, but I think fatherhood has given him another layer and he seems to control that edge and channel it.
“He has got the weight of the nation on his shoulders and he hasn’t disappointed. His experience is massive.”
3. Dan Cole (England)
“He has been the rock of England for a long time and is very experienced. There are a lot of young suitors on the charge, but there is no one quite ready who is playing who has taken that mantle from him yet. He has been on a Lions tour and he knows what it’s about.”
4. Maro Itoje (England)
“This is a future world-class superstar in the making. I’m excited at the thought of where he is going to be, come the end of next season when the Lions tour kick off. He is just in his infancy as an international player, but he is not far off that world-class bracket. I’m excited about him.”
5. Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
“I played with him in the Lions of 2013 and I have got the utmost respect for him as a leader, as a character. His work rate, his experience, his team talks, all the things that he brings – I want him in my team. He is my rock behind my tighthead. His scrummaging weight as well; he ticks all those boxes.”
6. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
“He is a versatile back row. His work rate is second to none for a back row, so he is able to play No 6. He is good in the air at the lineout, so you are not losing by picking almost another No 8 in your back row, and he is also very good over the ball, which he has shown over the years.”
7. Sam Warburton (Wales)
“When fit, when healthy, he is a top-quality international No 7. He can spoil the ball and playing with him gave me a real respect for him. His main skill is he is first to everything. If there is a spilled ball, he is first on it; if there is a breakdown opportunity, he strikes on it.
“He is a great player, a great leader and he has captained a Lions series already. He is captain of Wales and I want that experience in my team.”
8. Billy Vunipola (England)
“He has been one of the real stand-outs of this [Six Nations] competition. He is really growing into this England squad, he has nailed down that No 8 shirt, he looks like he is enjoying it, he has got the confidence and he is going out there and physically imposing himself on everyone.
“I want him over there in New Zealand going out there and stomping the yard and matching their physicality with his X-factor.”
Do you agree with Corbisiero’s selection? [Sky Sports]