Who will make the British and Irish Lions XV?
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British Lions' Mike Phillips, right, clears the ball as South Africa's Bakkies Botha, left, looks on during their international rugby union match at King's Park, Durban, South Africa, Saturday, June 20, 2009. AP Images
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Two games into the northern hemisphere’s tour of the south, we can start to make an assessment as to who will return next year as part of the British and Irish Lions.
Based on the form of the players this June and including those missing through injury, it is clear who the Lions are likely to be. Here is my list of the 2013 British and Irish Lions.
1. Gethin Jenkins (Captain – Wales): already a Lion, he is not only making another claim for the loose head position, I think he is making a claim for the captaincy. Corbisiero should be on the bench.
2. Rory Best (Ireland): the Irish hooker has cemented top billing as the Lions no. 1 hooker and is another captaincy candidate. Dylan Hartley should be on the bench and he may put pressure on him for a starting spot but that’s about it. This is possibly an area of weakness for the Lions.
3. Adam Jones (Wales): just pipping Dan Cole for the tight head spot by his slightly better scrummaging. Euan Murray is also a strong chance for a bench spot.
4. Richie Grey (Scotland): arguably the premier lock in world rugby, the Scottish giant who has to have his mattresses specially made to fit his 6ft 10 inch frame, has it all. His try against Ireland and performance against the English and French this year were more than what any other lock in the world can offer. Against Australia he was solid in the wet, but in dryer conditions look out!
5. Courtney Lawes (England): the injured Englishman is the epitome of today’s dynamic professional lock. Naturally lean and athletic he has a high work rate both in the gym and on the field so it fits that this amazing talent should be selected above all others except Grey.
6. Dan Lydiate (Wales): bases his game on big defensive displays, which can change the flow of a game, evident by being named the Player of the Six Nations. He just gets the nod ahead of Ferris, Croft and Denton who are all unfortunately missing from the June tests.
7. Ross Rennie (Scotland): a controversial selection ahead of Warburton, Robshaw and O’Brien. However, Rennie outplayed all in the Six Nations on a losing side and was immense against the Wallabies. If he can maintain his form and hide the fact he’s Scottish he should get the nod.
8. Ben Morgan (England): not entirely match fit at the moment but one can’t ignore that his inclusion for England during their Six Nations campaign made a huge difference. His ‘Man of the Match’ display in the last match was irresistible.
9. Danny Care (England): the bad boy of English rugby, he should get the nod ahead of his countryman Youngs due to his quicker service and stellar form in the English premiership. May be a touring risk though if indeed he becomes acquainted with Mr Beale and or Mr Cooper.
10. Jonathon Sexton (Ireland): A reliable and certain choice at fly half, the Heineken Cup hero has been good for Ireland and should be first choice with no other bar possibly Toby Flood pushing him for a place.
11. Tommy Bowe (Ireland): another missing from the Ireland team this June, his try scoring ability is too much to ignore. If fit he will play.
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales): nothing more needs to be said.
13. Mani Tuilagi (England): Who could resist combining Roberts and Tuilagi in the mid-field even at the expense of the ageing yet still highly competitive Brian O’Driscoll or the young superstar Jonathan Davies. McCabe and Horne (or maybe by next year Chris F’Sautia and Will Tupou) will be earning their money trying to stop this powerful two-some.
14. George North (Wales): the powerful young winger is a must for any side, even possibly a world XV. His natural pace and size can be summed up by the fact that his coaches have told him not to spend too much time in the gym because it might spoil his natural somatotype. He must have some Pacific Islander in his blood. Since Shane Williams retired he has not played as well on the Welsh left wing so I’m positive he’ll picked on the right wing where he belongs. If not his team-mate Cuthbert is just as powerful and amazingly even bigger.
15. Ben Foden (England): with Sexton there is no need for Halfpenny and with Kearney not being able to bring his Heineken cup form into the Test arena, the under-rated Englishman gets the nod.
One thing is certain: the Lions are going to be strong. After all they will be the combination of four Test match quality sides.
The Wallabies will not be able to match them physically but that is nothing new. We need to do what we do best and play intelligent rugby, which is what we are famous for.
Roarers, who would you pick for the Lions team next year and how do you think the Wallabies can counter them?
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