The strengths and weakness of the Lions - huge forwards, mismatched backs

Argentina found plenty of space around the fringes of the All Black ruck in NZ last year.
ANTHONY AU-YEUNG/GETTY IMAGES

Argentina found plenty of space around the fringes of the All Black ruck in NZ last year.

WHERE ARE LIONS STRONGEST?

Has to be the size and physicality of the forwards. While there is x-factor in the squad, it's hard to go past the sheer size and brute force of their pack.

As New Zealand's frigid winter sets in, there's little chance the Lions will attempt to match the All Blacks' world-beating play out wide from the get-go.

The Lions have a big, physical pack.

The Lions have a big, physical pack.

They will no doubt unleash their battering rams, keep things tight and attempt to overwhelm the men in black up front.

Argentina found plenty of space around the fringes of the ruck last year, taking advantage of the All Blacks' reluctance to commit numbers at the breakdown.

The Lions pack will fancy their chances to do the same and then some.

Lions captain Sam Warburton and coach Warren Gatland after the squad announcement.
WARREN LITTLE/GETTY

Lions captain Sam Warburton and coach Warren Gatland after the squad announcement.

WHERE ARE LIONS WEAKEST?

Hailed as the best Lions squad to tour New Zealand for a "long, long time" by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, there are no glaring weaknesses.

However, when it comes to the crunch, it's difficult to see their backs producing enough fireworks -  and they'll need to at some stage - to win at least two tests.

Sure, they should at least match the All Blacks up front, but that alone will not be enough.

Man for man the All Blacks' backs have more spark.
GETTY

Man for man the All Blacks' backs have more spark.

They won't win the series by kicking goals, they'll need tries and their backs will have to conjure up some magic to keep pace with the finely tuned All Blacks' backs.

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Man for man, they're not on the same level as the All Blacks who, led by electric playmaker Beauden Barrett, have an attacking mindset like no other. 

SIX LIONS DANGERMEN

1. Lock Maro Itoje isn't the reigning European player of the year for nothing. The 22-year-old, who can also operate as a loose forward, is one of the few Lions who would push for a spot in the All Blacks.

England lock Maro Itoje in action during this year's Six Nations.
TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

England lock Maro Itoje in action during this year's Six Nations.

Itoje is brilliant at the breakdown, a stout defender and a more than handy ball-carrier.

As he showed last year during England's 3-0 series win against Australia, he's also not afraid to get in the faces of opposition players.

2. The All Blacks will give away penalties at their own peril with fullback Leigh Halfpenny and his deadly-accurate right-foot in the mix.

The Welshman hasn't set the world on fire of late but is one of a bunch of goal kicking aces in the squad. He was a star for the touring side during their 2-1 series win against the Wallabies in 2013 and has the ability to again shape as one of their key players.

Leigh Halfpenny starred for the Lions in 2013.
REUTERS

Leigh Halfpenny starred for the Lions in 2013.

In addition to his goal-kicking prowess, he's also a shifty operator with ball in hand and isn't afraid to have a crack from the back. 

3. Halfback Rhys Webb isn't a bad answer to All Black counterparts TJ Perenara and Aaron Smith.

Like them, he's a livewire with a snappy pass and the confidence to have a nudge himself, but has a fight on his hands to edge out Ireland's Conor Murray for the starting role. 

Lions and Welsh halfback Rhys Webb.
PETER CZIBORRA

Lions and Welsh halfback Rhys Webb.

The 28-year-old Welshman is coming off an outstanding Six Nations campaign and will no doubt ignite the Lions' backline with his combative and high-energy game.

4. If he can stay healthy, flanker and captain Sam Warburton could well be a real difference maker in the upcoming series.

When on song, he's one of the best fetchers in the business and should attract plenty of attention from All Black forwards at the breakdown.

Sam Warburton is only the second player to lead two Lions tours.
GETTY IMAGES

Sam Warburton is only the second player to lead two Lions tours.

Warburton is also a proven leader, something the Lions dearly need to have a sniff. 

5. Taulupe Faletau is the complete package at No 8.

Not only is he powerful, quick off the mark and an outstanding ball-carrier, the Welshman defends like a boss and plays with plenty of ticker.

Taulupe Faletau on the charge.
SHAUN BOTTERILL/GETTY IMAGES

Taulupe Faletau on the charge.

Only played one test four years ago and will have to beat out England's equally impressive Billy Vunipola for the starting spot. Healthy competition is only good for the team. 

6. It would have been truly baffling if rumours circulating regarding Jonathan Joseph missing out on the squad came true.

Fortunately for him, they proved false and the utility will travel to New Zealand.

Jonathan Joseph can conjure magic with the ball in hand.
REUTERS

Jonathan Joseph can conjure magic with the ball in hand.

The Englishman possesses blistering speed and magical footwork to rival the most illusive players in the world, and will be a handful whether he is utilised on the wing or in the midfield. 

 - Stuff

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