I can write about Lions' selections until I'm blue in the face and still not relieve myself of that burning desire to predict and speculate. There is something about this tour that stirs such curiosity and imagination, despite this year being one of the most predictable squads over the last two decades. Let's face it, the lions-share (pardon that pun) of the selections this year are pretty easy to imagine; regardless of whether you're English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh, you know Alun Wyn Jones is in that dressing room baby! However, what we are missing, is that Lions of yester-year, bolter mentality. Players who no one expected to make the cut internationally, let alone in a congregation of the isles sporting heroes. Let's hearken back to simpler times, a time in which ring fencing meant you were sorting out your garden before Hurricane Graham hits.
5. Christian Wade (Wasps, England)
The majority of Rugby fans will agree, that Wade is perhaps one of the worst instances of wasted talent in English Rugby history. Despite performing well in the rare cameo internationally and dominating the domestic game, he was often regarded as an after-thought due to his size and stature. Although tackling was far from his best attribute, it was often over-blown by media and pundits alike; any Wasps fan will tell you that they were never unsure of Wade's tackling ability out on the Wing, and the majority of the time he was safe as heck under the high ball. Despite nearly breaking the all time try record before his departure from Rugby a couple years back, Wade was never in Lancaster's plans. However, Gatland did like the cut of his jib and chose to include him as injury cover on the 2013 tour. Wade, who scored 18 tries in 26 matches for Wasps the season prior, was brought in to cover Tommy Bowe and George North who had suffered some minor injuries in the build up to the tests. Although he didn't get much game time, Wade was referred to as a fantastic 'tourist' and perhaps will most be remembered for the camera panning to his teammates during a warm up match with him giggling away as he combed his hair.
4. Andy Titterrell (Sale, England)
Now I really rate Andy Titterrell and I actually believe him to be one of the most underrated Front Rowers of the modern era. He pioneered that position alongside other new, mobile, smaller Hookers such as Lee Mears and Rory Best. He could jackal, he could carry, he could use his hands effectively, the only thing he didn't have was natural bulk. Playing well for Sale domestically, Titterrell gets a lot of grief for being an unexpected pick here, but in Clive Woodward's giant 44 man squad, you're almost running out of players to pick from who even specialise in that area! That tour was a Woodward problem, and what became of that Woodward problem was a squad problem. Titterrell wasn't ready to come up against behemoth's like Mealamu and co; he really struggled against the bigger packs. He went on to play five times internationally and now he's part of the Wasps dressing room; a really solid career that doesn't get the praise that it deserves despite the time period.
3. Tom Court (London Irish, Ireland)
Yeah this is where is starts getting a little weird. The Australian-born, 32 capped loosehead prop was drafted into the squad to cover an injured Alex Corbisiero (a player who had an absolutely phenomenal tour). Don't just take it from me that this was pretty left field, Court actually though he was being pranked by some senior squad members with the call up! It might have come as a shock to see a man, currently on holiday over in Australia, suddenly get pushed into one of the most exciting Lion's tours of recent memory. He didn't really feature in any significant capacity but he did put in a sterling performance against a pretty mediocre Melbourne Rebels side.
2. Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester, England)
Twelvetrees' career is certainly a tale of two halves. Massive potential, an early explosion onto the national stage and it felt like his fire burnt as briefly as briefly as the time spent on the pitch for the Lions. His partnership with Burrell under Lancaster was surprisingly simpatico, putting in a couple of excellent performances in the Six Nations. As his star grew, moves to Gloucester soon followed and that's when his career became a bit stop/start. Twelvetrees was called up to the 2013 tour due to a maelstrom of injuries in the midfield. With 19 caps under his belt and in the interest of versatility, you can sort of understand why he was introduced into the fray. His ball playing and kicking options might even be similar to an archetypal Owen Farrell, but unlike the Saracen, he couldn't really showcase that on this stage. I really respect Twelvetrees, and he's another player that is often remembered for the silly weight of expectations fans and pundits put on him; he's a perfectly serviceable centre domestically who did a job for England whilst they were re-building.
1. Cory Hill (Cardiff Blues, Wales)
Wait, wait, wait, hear me out! You might be wondering, 'why would a 30 cap international lock, who's just won the Six Nations be a weird pick for the Lions?' Well the answer is simple, Joe Launchbury. Hill was a relative newcomer to the international game, making a handful of cameo's off the bench for a Welsh side that seemed a little inconsistent year to year. He had made his senior debut against Australia in a losing effort and had barely any game time under his belt at that level. However, he was called up mid-tour for the 2017 Lions tour despite public outcry for Joe Launchbury. Launchbury was perhaps one of the in-form Locks in the world at the time of the original squad selection, and many fans were baffled as to why he wasn't included. That bafflement turned into absolute delusion when he was left out once against in favour of the young, unproven Hill. Hill didn't really feature throughout the tournament and the likes of Itoje, Henderson and Alun Wyn Jones dominated those starting spots throughout the tour, but the picking of Hill became one of the largest squad-based media storms in Rugby history.
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