Six Nations champions England look set to provide more than a third of the 2017 British and Irish Lions squad – but reports suggest Dylan Hartley is a certain absentee.
Lions tour manager John Spencer will announce the squad on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).
While players like Ben Te’o, Elliot Daly, Joe Marler and Maro Itoje should become first-time Lions in New Zealand this summer, some high-profile casualties are also possible.
Lions boss Warren Gatland and his coaching staff put the finishing touches to their selection during a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
According to both the BBC and The Times, England captain Hartley has been overlooked, with Rory Best, Ken Owens and Jamie George the preferred hookers.
Hartley has led Eddie Jones’ side to two Six Nations titles, a grand slam, a series whitewash of Australia and a world record-equalling run of 18 Test consecutive wins but indications are he will be omitted, while uncertainty also surrounds centre Jonathan Joseph, fly-half George Ford and lock Joe Launchbury.
New Zealand-born former NRL star Te’o, who has made one England start in eight appearances, shone in front of watching Lions assistant coach Rob Howley when Worcester beat Aviva Premiership opponents Bath three days ago.
England’s representation is set to be their largest since Clive Woodward selected 20 for the Lions’ 2005 New Zealand expedition, but Scotland, despite winning three recent Six Nations games, could be left with fullback Stuart Hogg as their solitary squad member.
The Lions kick off their 10-match trip against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on June 3, with the Blues, Crusaders, Highlanders, Maori All Blacks and Chiefs all on their agenda before the first of three Tests three weeks later.