My Lions Squad – 37 men to topple the All Blacks

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Loosehead Props: Mako Vunipola, Jack McGrath, Joe Marler – Mako Vunipola’s all-round quality means he can’t be ignored, whereas McGrath is a great option off the bench. Joe Marler’s battle-hardened passion makes him impossible to leave in the UK, and he’ll be part of the core of my midweek team.

Hookers: Dylan Hartley, Rory Best, Ken Owens – Jamie George is hard to leave out, but I struggle to fathom how a player who’s never started an international game is one of the best three hookers in the British Isles. Dylan Hartley gets the nod over Rory Best due to his superiority at the set-piece and the quiet air of authority that surrounds him.

Tighthead Props: Tadhg Furlong, Dan Cole, Samson Lee – Tadhg Furlong’s youth and exuberance means he’ll start as my tighthead, and Dan Cole’s international experience and scrummaging class makes him an asset off the bench. Samson Lee tours over WP Nel having played under Gatland previously.

Locks: Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonny Gray, Joe Launchbury, Devin Toner – Itoje and Jones will start in my Test team, with Itoje’s raw talent and Jones’ experience combining well to overcome New Zealand. Jonny Gray offers youth and talent off the bench, while Launchbury’s work rate means I cannot turn him down. Devin Toner is an experienced line-out craftsman which could prove vital down under.

Back Rowers: CJ Stander, Sam Warburton, Billy Vunipola, Justin Tipuric, Peter O’Mahony, Taulupe Faletau, John Hardie – CJ Stander’s quality is impossible to turn down, and Sam Warburton has won a Lions’ tour before – a vital attribute – and he’ll captain my team. Billy Vunipola’s prolonged performances have given him my No. 8 shirt, while Justin Tipuric offers an incredible attacking talent off the bench. Peter O’Mahony has a simply incredible work rate, and he’ll be another key member of my midweek side. Taulupe Faletau is a beast of a man similar to Vunipola, and should provide healthy competition for the Englishman. John Hardie has performed admirably in Scotland’s revival over the past few years, and is a good man to counter the starting trio.

Scrum Halves: Conor Murray, Rhys Webb, Greig Laidlaw – Conor Murray has an accuracy about his game that Rhys Webb cannot offer, but the Welshman’s prowess going forward gives him a place on the bench ahead of Greig Laidlaw. The Scotsman captains my midweek team in the games that simply must be won to retain squad morale and a winning mentality

Fly Halves: Finn Russell, Johnny Sexton, George Ford – Finn Russell is a huge wildcard selection, but in attack, there is no one who can match him. By performing so well against All Black legend Dan Carter just months ago, Russell has proven he can compete with the very best, which Beauden Barrett is. Sexton misses out, but I believe him and Farrell are too similar to successfully dovetail. George Ford is a good player to tour, and could potentially rival Russell for a starting spot to combine with international team mate Owen Farrell.

Centres: Owen Farrell,  Jonathan Joseph, Robbie Henshaw, Scott Williams – Owen Farrell picks himself, while Daly and North’s ability to cover 13 means I’ve picked three inside centres in my squad. Scott Williams is a slightly rogue pick, but I believe he’s been one of the stand out players in a massively underperforming Wales’ team of late.

Wingers: George North, Anthony Watson, Liam Williams, Simon Zebo, Elliot Daly – George North’s performances in Australia last time out added to his potential to wreak havoc in a seemingly impenetrable All Black defence give him a starting berth, and Anthony Watson’s try scoring exploits over the past few seasons give him the other spot. Liam Williams and Simon Zebo have both performed internationally for a while now, and offer an exciting unpredictability, especially in Zebo’s case. Elliot Daly’s long range boot and priceless ability to cover most of the backline make him a valuable asset to my squad, and he isn’t bad in attack either!

Fullbacks: Stuart Hogg, Leigh Halfpenny – Hogg’s attacking ability means he’ll start at the back, and I believe that Leigh Halfpenny has been unfairly criticised. He’s performed fairly well for Wales, but because he’s struggled to replicate his pre-injury form, he’s receiving a large amount of unfair stick.

So , there we have it. My Lions Squad of 37. Please let me know your thoughts below.

By Josh Bartholomew






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