With the Official British & Irish Lions squad announcement under 24 hours away, it is that time that all the great and good select their Lions squad’s and it’s time for us to reveal who we think should be touring with the Lions this summer.
The Lions squad has been quite a difficult one to pick this time round as competition for places has been extremely intense in some of the key positions on the field, not least the battle in the backrow and on the wing.
We’ve even still got quite a battle going on for the captaincy, however if you believe the bookies then Sam Warburton is completely nailed on as they have suspended betting on the Welsh leader.
So, without further ado, here is our take on who should be touring with the British & Irish Lions to Australia:
Dan Cole, Cian Healy, Paul James, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones
Rory Best, Ross Ford, Tom Youngs
Ian Evans, Ritchie Gray, Joe Launchbury, Paul O’Connell, Alun Wyn Jones
Johnnie Beattie, Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien, Chris Robshaw, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton, Tom Wood
Grieg Laidlaw, Conor Murray, Mike Phillips
Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton, Jonny Wilkinson
Brad Barritt, Brian O’Driscoll (c), Jamie Roberts, Manu Tuilagi
Chris Ashton, Tommy Bowe, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Tim Visser
Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg
There’s a lot to discuss in there and some controversial picks no doubt! Firstly, let us stress that this is what we would LIKE the Warren Gatland to pick and not what we think he will actually go with.
So, let’s leave aside the more obvious picks in the front row, hooker and at centre and focus on the more controversial fringe players.
We’ve gone for Joe Launchbury at lock. Despite his form tailing off a little towards the end of the Six Nations, his impact in the first half of the tournament was promise enough to bring him along to learn from the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O’Connell. He is young and hungry enough to really get the bit between his teeth on a short Lions tour and we can see him starting on tour as fifth choice and pushing his way right up and into the test side.
In the back row, Dan Lydiate and Johnnie Beattie just about make the cut ahead of Toby Faletau and Jamie Heaslip and Ben Morgan. It suggests a shortage of Numbers 8′s with those strong names being left out, but we just think the versatility of O’Brien, Wood and Beattie gives them the nod.
At scrum half we’ve gone for a completely opposing set of skills in our three picks. All three and completely different and will provide the Aussies will provide a completely different set of challenges whoever plays. It gives the Lions the option to mix it up at any point and change their style of play to suit the game.
Selecting Wilkinson at fly half will be derided and celebrated in equal measure, but here’s our logic. There’s no doubt that Wilkinson is the form fly half at the moment. You only need to look at the game yesterday for Toulon against Saracens to see how well he is playing at the moment. When Wikinson plays it’s like starting with a 20 point lead. That said however, we don’t think he would actually make the test side but what he will do is raise the games of Sexton and Farrell to greater heights. Those two will have to play some of their best rugby to keep Wilkinson out of the test side and if they are doing that then we will have a real threat and game changer on our hands.
On the wing we’ve also picked the controversial Chris Ashton despite some recent poor performances. The thing with Ashton is that he is a big game finisher. He has a desire and will to score tries and although he has his weaknesses in defence, if the Lions are on the front foot then Ashton is absolutely lethal. Ashton will relish the short term nature of the Lions and we can see him quite easily reaching the end of the tour as top scorer.
Lastly, the selection of Hogg over Kearney was a real tough one. Not much to call between the two and Kearney has the experience of a Lions tour in his locker already, but we just felt that the Scot had such a good Six Nations that we couldn’t leave him out.
Tomorrow morning ahead of the official announcement, we’ll let you know who we think Warren Gatland will actually pick, and of course, don’t forget to follow us live here on Lions-Tour.com for all the news and reaction as it happens at 11am tomorrow.