With the Lions tour of New Zealand looming over us, there are some major selection decisions to be made on who should be in the 37-man squad that heads to New Zealand in June 2017.
In the first part of this series, let’s take a look at the front row options for the 2017 tour.
Jack McGrath: McGrath has shown immense form throughout the recent season and was one of Ireland’s star players in a mediocre Rugby World Cup campaign. He has proved to be a key asset to Ireland and Leinster while covering for the injury-prone, out of form, Cian Healy.
Joe Marler: Being excluded from the “Whitewash” 3-0 victory in Australia may have hurt Marler’s chances of being picked in the Lions tour, but Marler has lots of experience and natural talent, not to mention being a solid scrummager. This may have redeemed his chance. He can also last the full 80 minutes in a game which is not so common for a prop these days
Mako Vunipola: Vunipola showed tremendous form in the June internationals, starting all three game in the 3-0 win. At only 25 years old he has already been on a Lions tour which makes him experienced enough to know what to expect. Vunipola has a relentless work-rate, he can run, he can make big hits and he can offload
Gethin Jenkins: Genkins is a Veteran of the game, making his international debut in 2002 and was selected in the 2005 and 2009 Lions Tour’s, the 35 year old has recently come back to form in the welsh tour of New Zealand, starting two of the four games down-under. the prop is known for his work-rate and will cause some selection head-aches if chosen.
Dylan Hartley: Captain of England and certainly a driving force in England’s spotless set-piece, Hartley has come to terms with the responsibility of being England captain and has certainly cooled the hot-head he used to have.
Rory Best: Best is an essential player in the Irish set-up. He does a huge amount of the work that sometimes goes unnoticed and has been Schmidt’s clear-cut first choice hooker for some time now. The Ulsterman wasn’t really given a chance on the last tour so he will be hoping to do better this time round.
Sean Cronin: Cronin has been living in the shadow of Rory Best for some time now. He has 50 caps for Ireland’s first team but the majority of them have been off the bench. Has been showing form with Leinster this season and may have made a breakthrough come June 2017.
Ken Owens: Did not have the best June internationals, but has the Autumn to prove himself. Has the ability to score exceptional tries while also being able to do the basics right, hence his starting place in the Welsh National team.
Dan Cole: Key to England’s scrummaging success, and has the ability and fitness to last 80 minutes. All you can ask for from a tight-head these days.
Mike Ross: The walking definition of a solid scrummager, but that and the occasional tackle is all Ross offers the Irish set-up.
WP Nel: Weighing in at 120kg, Nel is an extremely powerful scrummager. The prop solved the Scottish scrummaging problems from the moment he walked in and is highly regarded throughout the world.
Samson Lee: New into the welsh set up but has certainly proved himself and earned himself a starting spot due to consistent performances with Scarlets in the Pro12. Can potentially last 70 minutes as he did in the first test in Eden Park, and no doubt a solid scrummager.