Potential Lions 1st Test Team

With both the Guinness Pro12 final and the Aviva Premiership finals just one week before the first Lions test, it got me thinking; If Gatland goes for fresh legs and rests all involved in the finals for the first test- what might his team look like in the first test?

To make this team, I’ve looked at the teams in the top 4 of their respective leagues and immediately discounted any players from those teams. Of course the top 4 are likely to have changed to some extent by the end of this season, this was just a piece done out of curiosity. Here’s the team and my justifications.

 

Potential Lions 1st Test Team - Lions Tour - Rugby lineups, formations and tactics
A potential Lions XV for the first test

 

  1. Gethin Jenkins- Having experienced three Lions tours already, he could bring an awful lot of experience to this team. With an impressive chip over the top in Wales win over Argentina last week, he has shown that he still has some class in him yet, even at 36 years of age.

  2. England Captain, at the time of writing with 11 consecutive wins under his belt- he would be a huge presence in the front-row. Born in New Zealand, there may just be a bit of extra incentive at play for Dylan Hartley.

  3. With Edinburgh ever inconsistent, Gatland will hope that Nel will be available for the first game- having transformed the Scottish set piece and being a big carrier in open play, Nel is held in high regard by many.

  4. Last weekend Jonny Gray and elder brother Richie being menaces in the loose, solid in the set piece. Jonny topped the tackle charts of Europe with 24, Richie just behind on 23, in class of their own in defence- with Jonny set for finals with Glasgow Warriors, Richie wouldn’t be a bad selection for the first test at all.

  5. Ultan Dillane may seem like a bolter to some- 3rd choice at best for Ireland, but a really underrated player. For me he has similar potential to Maro Itoje (almost certain to be away with Sarries) and with so many quality lock’s likely to be involved in finals, this could be a real moment for the young lock (If a bit of a baptism of fire)

  6. Solid to the last, experienced in beating the All Blacks (2012) Mr Robshaw ticks all of the right boxes for me.

  7. Sam Warburton- Captained the Lions to victory in 2013, a favourite under Gatland, he’s unlikely to miss out on selection.

  8. With a number of quality eights likely to be tied up with play-off action, Ross Moriarty could be a good shout for this spot. One of Wales’ few stand-out performers so far this Autumn.

  9. Greeeiiig. Perhaps not the most exciting scrum-half for some people, but has shown multiple times wih Gloucester and Scotland that he can lead a team and make the big decisions. Offering another option from the tee, Laidlaw could help to steer the ship in the first test.

  10. Paddy Jackson. There were a number of other who could have gone here, but Jackson has been pushing Sexton all the way this season and with Laidlaw as kicking back up, can focus on his own game more.

  11. This could have gone to George North, but I’d rather see Williams on the wing to make space for Mike Brown at the back. Williams shone against the All Blacks this summer and Anscombe has played amongst All Black teams and in Super Rugby, so will know what to expect.

  12. An illusive step, good kicking, physicality and great distribution skills to boot, Henry Slade could carry out a similar role that no doubt Farrell will be doing for Saracens the weekend before the first test.

  13. Another ‘bolter’ but with Super Rugby experience, and no chance of being involved in a final in the lead up, Huw Jones could be exactly the bolter that the Lions need. It’s early days for this guy, but the initial signs are promising.

  14. Jack Nowell- currently injured, but a constant attacking threat, with a great turn of pace and an assured defender too, he provides a strong option on the wing.

  15. Mike Brown- Wouldn’t be here otherwise, but on his day can be a quality addition to any side. A man who is in the elite, having played in a side that beat the All Blacks in 2012.

That makes it:

ENGLAND: 5

IRELAND: 2

WALES: 4

SCOTLAND: 4

The weighting here may seem bizarre- Ireland beat the All Blacks, England have been on a long run of victories, Scotland are playing the nearly card and Wales seem to be in a bit of a rut.

The problem is caused by the number of top internationals playing in the top teams in each league. Logically, to me, Ireland and England would otherwise make up the most numbers with a littering of Scottish and Welsh players to finish it off.

No doubt I’ve forgotten some players, so please let me know your thoughts on Twitter, or drop me an email- It’s of course all very hypothetical, league positions and form will change, but it was fun to look at.

Don’t forget to join my fantasy league and mailing list, here.

The Scribbler, 18th November, 2016

Twitter: @RugbyScribbler

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