Is this the Lions team to beat the All Blacks?

Could brothers Mako, left, and Billy Vunipola help the British and Irish Lions to a series win in New Zealand next year?
Henry Browne

Could brothers Mako, left, and Billy Vunipola help the British and Irish Lions to a series win in New Zealand next year?

OPINION: Blend the the best of England and Ireland, add some Welsh rarebit and save the Scots for the mid-week match mix.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland may finally have the recipe to beat the All Blacks in his New Zealand homeland next year?

Gatland may have to leave his defensive blinkers behind in Cardiff, but the ex-All Blacks hooker certainly has better talent than the last Lions retinue to land here.

England hooker Dylan Hartley could lead the Lions in his native New Zealand in 2017.
Paul Childs

England hooker Dylan Hartley could lead the Lions in his native New Zealand in 2017.

Clive Woodward's 2005 team had too many players past their best, but Gatland could conceivably field a side in or approaching their prime.

READ MORE: 
* ABs' 'flaws confirmed'
All Blacks' vehicles auctioned
Back to the pack for All Blacks?
Hansen: I'm so proud of the boys
All Blacks to hold 'wellbeing' camp

Only hooker Dylan Hartley, the obvious choice as captain, flanker Sean O'Brien and lock Alun Wyn Jones of the potential starting lineup, will be aged 30 or over when they arrive at Auckland Airport.

Maro Itoje, England's rising star, could be a key man in the British and Irish Lions' forward pack.
JASON O'BRIEN

Maro Itoje, England's rising star, could be a key man in the British and Irish Lions' forward pack.

England's unbeaten run in 2016 and Ireland's historic first test win over the All Blacks add a piquancy to the next Lions tour which was sadly absent 12 years ago.

IS THIS THE LIONS TEAM TO BEAT THE ALL BLACKS?

15: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales). The Lions' player of the series in Australia in 2013 is an elusive runner with a touch of class. Has honed his game since moving to France with Toulon.

Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny was the Lions' player of the tournament in their series win over Australia in 2013.
David Rogers

Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny was the Lions' player of the tournament in their series win over Australia in 2013.

14: Liam Williams (Wales). A star of Wales' tour to New  Zealand in 2016, Williams can operate anywhere across the back three. Has plenty of pace and safe hands under the high ball.

Ad Feedback

13: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland). Equally at home in the 12 or 13 jerseys, Henshaw shapes as the best Irish midfielder since 2005 Lions tour captain Brian O'Driscoll. Certainly has the physicality to handle the All Blacks midfield.

12: Owen Farrell (England). His experience in the pivot position equips him to serve as a second playmaker. The best goalkicker in world rugby and he grew up in rugby league so there's no doubts over his defence.

11: Elliot Daly (England). The Wasps pest could also easily play at fullback or centre. Speed to burn and doesn't shirk his defensive work either.

10: George Ford (England). His Bath boss, Todd Blackadder, has compared Ford to Dan Carter for his vision and control of a game. His clever passing and kicking has helped England's back play blossom under Eddie Jones.

9: Conor Murray (Ireland). A Munster monster man who many rate the world's best halfback in 2016. Built like a backrower, a dangerous runner around the edges and a master of the box kicking art.

8: Billy Vunipola (England). You have to be good to keep Wales' Taulape Faletau out of the starting lineup, and Vunipola certainly is. Eddie Jones believes the Brisbane-born, 126kg Vunipola can be the best No 8 in the world.

7: Sean O'Brien (Ireland). Wales' Sam Warburton has his adherents, but O'Brien has consistently troubled the All Blacks at the breakdown and offers more around the field. Missed the historic win in Chicago while on the injury comeback trail, but was dynamic again in Dublin.

6: Maro Itoje (England). The Saracens youngster won World Rugby's emerging player award for his deeds at lock in England's series win in Australia. But he has the pace and athleticism to play in the backrow and would offer an additional lineout option.

5: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales). Wales' most capped lock remains a wily campaigner and would bring plenty of experience from the 2009 and 2013 Lions tours.

4: George Kruis (England). The Saracens second rower has edged out Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury as England's first choice lock.

3: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland). The 24-year-old still feels he is"a big, big step away" from the Lions after just 11 tests for Ireland. But the County Wexford farmer is the standout tighthead, although it's hard to leave out any prop called Samson (Wales' Samson Lee).

2: Dylan Hartley (England). Rotorua's finest export under-achieved earlier in his career after bouts of ill-discipline and inconsistency, but he's added extra maturity to his game and has thrived as England's captain. Edges out Ireland's able Rory Best, Scotland's Ross Ford and English understudy Tom Youngs.

1: Mako Vunipola (England). Billy's Wellington-born big brother is 130kg and a powerful scrummager, but is handy around the field too. Eddie Jones reckons Vunipola's skill set is better than the All Blacks' tight forwards.

Reserves: 16-Rory Best (Ireland), 17-Samson Lee (Wales) 18-Jack McGrath (Ireland), 19-Joe Launchbury (England), 20-Chris Robshaw (England), 21-Greig Laidlaw (Scotland), 22-Manu Tuilagi (England), 23-Jonny May (England).

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback