Warren Gatland’s announcement of the 2017 British and Irish Lions Squad is now just days away. Soon we shall know the 37 players who will fly out to New Zealand and pull on the famed red shirt. Naturally there is a great deal of speculation around who will make the cut, only complicated by the recent Six Nations, so it is fair for me to throw my hat into the ring. Myself and my mother have both chosen 37 players before sealing them in an envelope that can only be opened after the April 19th announcement: whoever gets the most correct number of players in the squad right, wins. Simple. And so, here are who I think Warren Gatland will put on the plane (plus a few others I feel will join the squad should injuries take their toll.
Dan Cole, Kyle Sinckler, Mako Vunipola (all England), Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, and Jack McGrath (all Ireland)
The best scrummagers come from two nations, while Sinckler, although inexperienced, has excelled in the Premiership recently.
Rory Best (Ireland), Dylan Hartley (England), and Ken Owens (Wales)
If Hartley can stay out of trouble the he should probably just edge Best and Owens in a tightly contested position.
Jonny Gray (Scotland), Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury (all England), and Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
A real area of strength for the Lions that could have a number of combinations. Jones my favourite for the captaincy.
Taulupe Falateu, Sam Warburton (all Wales), Sean O’Brien, Peter P’Mahony, C.J. Stander (all Ireland), Billy Vunipola (England), and Hamish Watson (Scotland)
Another position with great depth. The Irish offer great ball carriers, while Watson’s Six Nations gives him a chance.
Danny Care (England), Conor Murray (Ireland), and Rhys Webb (Wales)
Murray would be my favourite to start but Care and Webb provide a nice change of pace off the bench.
Johnny Sexton (Ireland), and Dan Biggar (Wales)
Sexton is the best fly-half in the northern hemisphere, and Biggar is better than either Russell or Farrell at 10.
Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph (all England), Robbie Henshaw, and Gary Ringrose (all Ireland)
I had Jonathan Davies down until the last minute and I’m still not happy about switching. This position is a lottery to me.
George North (Wales), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), and Anthony Watson (England)
Watson was the only definite for me, with Liam Williams unlucky to miss out. Can cover in the centres if needed.
Mike Brown (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), and Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
It’s Hogg’s to lose, but Brown is better defensively, and Gatland knows what to expect with Halfpenny.
Those who just missed out
Luke Charteris, Jonathon Davies, Liam Williams, Justin Tipuric (all Wales), Jamie Heaslip, Iain Henderson (all Ireland), Courtney Lawes (England), and Finn Russell (Scotland)
Hard to leave any of these players out, but would not be surprised if any of them make the squad or are called up should injuries pile up.
So there we have it. I’m almost definitely wrong about a number of these players but it was good fun and provided further fuel for competition between me and my mum. I don’t envy the selectors in their jobs but regardless there are sure to be some surprises. Roll on the first Test in June.
Image courtesy of National Assembly of Wales (flickr)