A Lions team to trouble the All Blacks

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    The British and Irish Lions should be as Irish as possible.

    I’d start with Jack McGrath, a loosehead who maintains the same body position throughout the match. It’s as if he never stands up straight; he is perpetually in bulldozer mode. The sledgehammer Cian Healy could get a look, too. Both have no lower gear: it’s smash and grab all game long.

    At hooker, I’d reward Ulsterman Rory Best for his high standard of play and his referee-management. But by all means, drag bad boy Dylan Hartley along for 25 minute menacing cameos in his homeland.

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    Tighthead is probably canny Dan Cole’s position, but youngish Tadhg Furlong isn’t many furlongs behind. I might even go with horses-for-courses between the two.

    In the second row, pesky Maro Itoje, the eloquent warrior Alyn Wyn Jones, the two flop-haired Gray brothers, brutal George Kruis, skilled Iain Henderson and the lanky Devin Toner have all staked a claim, along with workman Donnacha Ryan, but the ebony-and-ivory combo of Itoje and Jones with the bigger of the Grays on the bench might be the ticket.

    England's Maro Itoje mulling over thier series win

    In the back row, it is difficult to ignore CJ Stander (blindside) and Jamie Heaslip at No 8; the two of them were at the very core of Irish success in 2016. Openside is tougher to rank, but I suppose Justin Tipuric has done enough to shade Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, and Peter O’Mahony? Warburton or O’Brien on the bench.

    Conor Murray might be the best nine in any country right now, and Ben Youngs would be the understudy, I suppose.

    Flyhalf is tricky. Dan Biggar does his thing, Owen Farrell is not bad if we look past George Ford, Finn Russell has serious skills, but Jonathan Sexton seems to have the most of all the traits needed. Sharpshooter Farrell as reserve to make those 75th minute kicks to win.

    In the midfield, the Lions have a tough task against the home team. I would go for a tough inside centre: Robbie Henshaw, who should not have any fear of facing the All Blacks. Outside him, the fast feet of Jonathan Joseph. Elliot Daly could be the reserve midfielder.

    Warren Gatland will struggle to pick his wings. Jonny May has been in top form, Christian Wade and Keith Earls have their strengths, Anthony Watson, too. But assuming he can overcome the head knocks, George North is a good bet to face the Kiwis, and Simon Zebo for his ‘Dagg Lite’ football skills.

    At fullback, Rob Kearney will always give his all, as would Mike Brown and Liam Williams. But Stuart Hogg might just inject the question mark needed, with Williams as a BBBBB-type sub.

    So, here’s my team:

    Hogg, Zebo, Joseph, Henshaw, North, Sexton, Murray, McGrath, Best, Cole, Itoje, Jones, Stander, Tipuric, Heaslip. Hartley, Healy, Furlong, Gray, Warburton, Youngs, Farrell, Williams.

    They would start as underdogs, of course, but with a fine pack platform for set piece and general play, and finishers in the backline.

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