How many Scots could make the British and Irish Lions squad?

first_imgIn reserve – Cian Healy (Ire), Rob Evans (Wal), Kyle Sinckler (Eng), WP Nel (Sco)An embarrassment of riches to choose from in the second row and, perhaps, a slice of Scottish bias to bring both of the Grays. Their partnership counts in their favour. Itoje is listed at lock despite playing flanker for the England, as extra mobility against the Kiwis is always welcome.In reserve – George Kruis (Eng), Courtney Lawes (Eng), Luke Charteris (Wal)Warburton was back approaching his best this spring and formed a great 6-7 partnership with Tipuric. Until last weekend I had Hamish Watson as my bolter for his outstanding performances, but Ireland’s pack dominance to end England’s winning run ensures O’Mahoney and O’Brien must go ahead of him.In reserve – Chris Robshaw (Eng), James Haskell (Eng), Hamish Watson (Sco)Perhaps the easiest selections of the whole squad, this pair are simply exceptional at their position. Vunipola will be one player that the All Blacks genuinely fear as his ball carrying can provide significant momentum.In reserve – Jamie Heaslip (Ire)Murray and Webb speak for themselves – the outstanding 9s of the northern hemisphere this year. Laidlaw is probably controversial as he’ll be light on gametime after his ankle injury and both England scrum halves – Danny Care and Ben Youngs – have strong form. If I were Gatland I would give the Scotland skipper every chance to get fit as his leadership and character are priceless on a gruelling tour, while his game management and goal kicking can win tight games on the field.In reserve – Danny Care (Eng), Ben Youngs (Eng)Sexton’s on the plane and wears 10 on Test days, as simple as that. His understudy will be a matter of intense debate. I make the case for Russell because he is in the form of his career to date, has the self-confidence to deal with the intensity of the tour, and provides a known midweek partnership with Laidlaw. If Greig doesn’t make the plane, neither does Finn. In that situation the place goes to George Ford who can slot in to a comfortable 10-12 tandem with Owen Farrell.In reserve – George Ford (Eng), Dan Biggar (Wal)Farrell is a leader of the backs and if he hits it off with Sexton the Lions will stand a chance of causing an upset. Daly has versatility and could easily start on the wing, because Joseph has the strongest claim to play 13 in the Test side. Davies and Henshaw both had good championships and will push all the way for full Test honours.In reserve – Garry Ringrose (Ire), Jared Payne (Ire), Ben Te’o (Eng), Alex Dunbar (Sco)North had a superb Six Nations in attack and is back in the Lions Test reckoning. His defence was sporadic – at times he was impossible to pass; but he was also burned badly by Tim Visser on numerous occasions at Murrayfield. Williams is a good wing and also cover for full-back. Watson is England’s number one wing and must travel with a good chance of being a Test starter. My case for Seymour rides on his defence and aerial ability being better than the others with a claim to inclusion, while his finishing has been proven regularly in the Pro 12 and internationals.In reserve – Jack Nowell (Eng), Simon Zebo (Ire), Keith Earls (Ire)Hogg is box office; he has everyone talking and he will occupy more than a few pre-match talks by this summer’s opposition teams. The Six Nations sealed his reputation as the best full back on the northern hemisphere not just because of his attack, but because his defence has noticeably improved. Halfpenny just edges out Rob Kearney on the basis of his goalkicking and his experience from the 2013 tour of Australia.In reserve – Rob Kearney (Ire)Jamie’s British and Irish Lions Test side:McGrath, Best (c), Furlong, Launchbury, Itoje, Stander, Warburton, B Vunipola; Murray, Sexton, North, Farrell, Joseph, Watson, HoggReplacements: Hartley, M Vunipola, Cole, Jones, O’Brien, Webb, Daly, Williams With another Six Nations in the books the thoughts of rugby fans now turn fully to next month’s announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad.Warren Gatland announces his men to head to New Zealand on April 19.Always a moment to spark debate and argument, the matter of who will be given the honour of wearing the famous red jersey in the toughest of international test series is almost as anticipated as the tour itself.Nobody can make an objective judgement. Each of the Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish observers will think their countrymen could earn a spot on the flight in the more borderline positions. This author is no different so, having watched each team in the flesh this spring, here are 37 players (21 forwards and 16 backs) that I believe could do the job.The quality, experience and temperament of Best marks him out not only as the Test starter, but also a strong candidate the captain the Lions. Hartley has been a stalwart for an England side that would give the All Blacks a run for their money right now, and Owens had a terrific Six Nations and thoroughly deserves his place.In reserve – Jamie George (Eng), Scott Baldwin (Wal)With combinations counting for so much at the highest level, the temptation would be to field Ireland’s full front row unit to start the Tests, with England’s in reserve on the bench. Deciding on a third tighthead was tough as a fit WP Nel would have been a shoo-in. I chose the experience of Francis over England’s younger ‘finisher’ Kyle Sinckler.last_img read more