How We Think The Lions Might Line Out For The 1st Test Next Summer
Now we know you’ve probably seen enough selections at this stage, but it’s Lions season, so get used to it!
We’ve seen a lot of selections based on stats and current form etc. but very few raw selections that simply pick the strongest sides side, they believe, can take the field in New Zealand next summer.
We’ve still got the November internationals and the Six Nations to contend with, there are several key players out injured or not quite in-form at the moment, but providing Gatland has a clean bill of healthy come next June and certain stars regain form- this is the XV we reckon should take the field for the all important first test.
15. Leigh Halfpenny
Halfpenny has endured a torrid year with injury but is expected to return to full fitness in the coming weeks. A fit and in-form Halfpenny has to start. On his day one of the best fullbacks in the world and an excellent place kicker. If he doesn’t regain fitness/form then Stuart Hogg gets the nod for us over Mike Brown and tour veteran, Rob Kearney.
14. Anthony Watson
Athleticism and pace are the shining assets of Anthony Watson. A deadly finisher, who can cause any defender problems.
13. Robbie Henshaw
The most exciting centre to come out of Ireland since Brian O’Driscoll. All will depend on his Six Nations form/position in 2017. If Schmidt deploys him at 13 for the duration of the tournament, he has the ability to become one of the world’s very best. This season could be the year Robbie Henshaw cements him name on the world stage.
12. Jamie Roberts
A tour veteran who has proved time and time again he is one of the world’s very best 12’s. Can be injury prone, so his place will all depend on how he gets on this season. If his form is relatively decent and he’s fit, there’s no doubt in our minds he will a start.
11. George North
North has struggled to live up to the kind of form he showed in the 2013 Lions tour of Australia, but still only 24, and knowing what he is capable of- he has to start next summer.
10. Dan Biggar
Will Gatland only bring tow outhalves again for this tour? Competition for a Lions outhalf spot has never been higher with Biggar, Sexton, Ford and Farrell all in contention. Biggar gets the nod for us, with Sexton as second-choice.
9. Conor Murray
Once again huge competition here with several names in contention, but for us Murray is the man to start against New Zealand. The Irish nine was in superb form during the summer and his consistency is key here for selection. He has proved to the world time and time again, that he can mix it with the very best at test level and is the only man in our eyes who has a chance of winning the battle at nine against the mercurial Aaron Smith.
8. Billy Vunipola
Vunipola has enjoyed a glorious year with England and Saracens and just gets the nod over Welsh compatriot Toby Faletau. His explosive ball carrying could give the Lions some much needed front foot ball that will allow his teammates to get into the game.
7. Sam Warburton
The 2013 Lions captain missed the third test in Australia due to injury and will no doubt use that as motivation in 2o17. Our choice also for captain.
6. Peter O’Mahony
Our wildcard pick. O’Mahony was outstanding for Munster and Ireland before his knee injury at last year’s Rugby World Cup. After missing a full season, he is expected to return to action for Munster in the coming weeks. We reckon O’Mahony will be a man possessed and fight his way into a test jersey next summer.
5. Maro Otoje
This kid can do no wrong. Has the potential to become one of the best player’s in the world and shows no signs of slowing down. A shoe-in at lock.
4. Alun Wyn Jones
Another tour veteran who captained the Lions in the third test against Australia. His experience alone should guarantee him a test spot.
3. WP Nel
The best tighthead available to Warren Gatland, hands down.
2. Dylan Hartley
Providing he continues his monumental resurgence, Hartley will get the nod at hooker. Providing…
1. Jack McGrath
McGrath has been magnificent for Ireland and Leinster the past twelve months and deservedly ranked as the best loosehead in Europe right now.