Who Will Be The Starting XV For The Lions?

Every four years we hit an absolute media blizzard, chock-full of absolute tripe about who should have and who shouldn't have been picked for the tour. Although ancient pundits and southern hemisphere papers like to stir the buzz, it feels like the Lions squad announcement always induces a frenzy amongst fans... Well, not really this year. I think the majority of fans were pretty pleased to see how balanced the squad is from a representation point of view, and how progressive Gatland has been when picking players who are bang in form (if you exclude the Saracens boys, who have surely earnt their stripes by now). The likes of Beirne, Simmonds and LRZ being included in the side is welcomed change on the international stage from the veterans we've seen tear it up for the last decade; what's the fun in picking the exact same squad that we saw four years ago? Or even worse, the same squad we saw eight years ago? Here is who we think will start in the first test against South Africa this Summer:





Starting XV:


1. Wyn Jones

2. Ken Owens

3. Tadhg Furlong

4. Alun Wyn Jones (c)

5. Maro Itoje

6. Courtney Lawes

7. Hamish Watson

8. Taulupe Faletau

9. Conor Murray

10. Dan Biggar

11. Liam Williams

12. Robbie Henshaw

13. Chris Harris

14. Louis Rees - Zammit

15. Stuart Hogg


Bench:


16. Rory Sutherland

17. Luke Cowan-Dickie

18. Andrew Porter

19. Iain Henderson

20. Tom Curry

21. Gareth Davies

22. Owen Farrell

23. Elliot Daly


Let's explain some of the options we've gone for here. I think the Front Row picks itself, and with injuries the only threat looming, I can't see any other starting combination than these three; although Cowan-Dickie is always on that radar. At Second Row, there are lots of different combinations that I think suits this tour. unfortunately we are kind of hamstrung by AWJ being captain (an accolade that's much deserved) as he doesn't inspire much confidence in me when he has to face up against the behemoths in the Bok second row; personally I'd love a combo of Henderson and Itoje, two incredibly abrasive, tough, huge locks. I think Gatland loves Lawes, and despite him having relatively no game time, we really need another big boy running about in that back row; I've gone with Curry over Beirne on the bench due to his ability at 8, and/or AWJ or Itoje gets injured, Lawes slips in to second row and Curry covers 6.





Not a huge fan of the half back pairing, would really have loved Tomos Williams to be there with Biggar and I do think Murray could come unstuck against those rapid Bok 9's; Gareth Davies and Price don't necessarily solve that problem either, and at least Murray has an excellent tactical brain on those shoulders. On the Wings, I've gone pretty bold and brash with my picks. I think Gatland loves Williams out wide, and he will provide much needed expertise in the air that Lions could use as a weapon against smaller players like Kolbe and Mapimpi. Also, if there is an injury in the back three, there is plenty of options on the pitch to interchange. I have LRZ on the other side because he absolutely deserves it. Explosive, absolute gas and makes all the right decisions, he really could be a secret weapon for this side. Daly is on the bench purely to cover across all of those positions and at 13 if needed; think of Healey's influence in the early 00's/late 90's Lions tours. Henshaw and Harris make my centres, too very tough, aggressive players currently bang in form. Harris is a defensive monster and Henshaw is showing himself to be really complete player. Farrell is on the bench to cover 10 and 12 in case of injuries. Hogg picks himself too...




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