As the 2016 Autumn Test series draws to a close, we start to look forward to the highlight of 2017 – the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand!
It’s a question that gets discussed a lot – “who would you choose in the Lions team if the game was tomorrow?”
Well we thought we would have a stab at ours (picking only players who were involved in the November internationals) and here it is:
A fit WP Nel of Scotland will have something to say about that number 3 jersey, but for the time being, it’s Ireland all the way. The 2 Leinster props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong have been a brilliant combination for their national side throughout November, reprising their solid partnership from the summer.
In between them sits Rory Best, the Ireland captain who recently won his 100th cap, and is our pick for captain.
The discipline of Ireland in general – with only 3 penalties conceded against Australia – has been incredible, and the front row have been at the very heart of this.
Another Irishman in Iain Henderson, but this time joined by Scotland’s Jonny Gray. Gray made 13.4% of all Scotland’s tackles over the autumn – 43 from 322. He didn’t miss a single one. In fact, he hasn’t missed one in his last 750 minutes of Test rugby, 136 successful tackles in a row! Phenomenal. Maro Itoje is one that would probably be in with a shout, but he played no part in England’s series due to injury so is not included.
One each from Ireland, Wales and England here. A stunning performance from Justin Tipuric against South Africa puts him in the team before his international captain, Sam Warburton. 18 carries for Big Billy Vunipola against the Boks also included a massive hit on Eben Etzebeth which forced the second row to miss the rest of the game. A huge presence in any side.
CJ Stander only made his Ireland debut in February, but has recently been named Irish Rugby Writers player of the year for 2016 and was outstanding through November.
Quick ball is key, and the Irish number 9 Conor Murray has shown time and time again that he’s one of the best at this.
A position where all 4 nations have a shout, but England’s George Ford gets the nod due to his impressive partnership with Owen Farrell at 12. He also showed tremendous game management against the Springboks, and capitalised on holes in the defence as the game went on.
Finn Russell, Dan Biggar and Jonathan Sexton will all hope to get on the flight to New Zealand, but will need to perform in the upcoming Six Nations.
Owen Farrell – a 10 at his club, but centre for his country – is joined by Scotland’s newcomer Huw Jones, who scored 2 tries on his Murrayfield debut, and created the equaliser against Argentina in the next match.
Jonny May has been better on the wing than as a flanker, as he demonstrated against Argentina! Mako Vunipola certainly wasn’t impressed with his attempts to hold onto his leg at scrum time.
Stuart Hogg brings the X factor to Scotland’s play, something he showed when he gathered his own kick over the top against Georgia, then raced the rest of the way to the try line to scored his first of 2 tries in that match.
Liam Williams is off to Saracens next season, so the 2017 Six Nations could be the last chance he gets to impress in a Wales jersey as he will be relying on a wild card to play for his country.
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