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‘To win for the Lions in a Test match is the ultimate’ – My Lions Selection

It is all the rage at the moment but the end of the Six Nations brings a chance for me to select the squad I would to Australia for the British and Irish Lions if I were Warren Gatland.

Gatland has said that he wants to take 37 players to Australia and that his preference at hooker, scrum half and fly half is to take 3 players in each position. As such, those are the rules that I have applied to my squad.

With the new benches meaning you must have two substitute props, I have also taken an educated guess that Gatland will take six props with him.

There is a lot to consider when selecting a Lions squad, it is not just purely asking who the best 37 players are, there needs to be a balance to the team and the squad, with players selected who complement each other abilities.

There is also the issue of ‘character’ some players and just good tourists, whilst others struggle in such an intense environment, away from their families. You need characters who will keep the squad upbeat.

There is also mentality, in the big games under the greatest of pressure, the margins are usually so fine that it is the side with the better mental attitude that comes out on top. That means you need players with an insatiable will to win, who perform at their best under pressure and can be relied upon when things around them seem to be in chaos.

A blend of experienced pros and wide eyed youngsters (or as wide eyed as you can be in today’s rugby environment) is always useful, giving the squad the insight of past experience but the enthusiasm to try things out.

All of these things must be taken into account when selecting a Lions squad, this is why it is such a difficult task that awaits Gatland and his coaching team on April 30th.

Above all though it is of course the quality of the players that counts and in the pack, and the back row especially, and at full back the number of quality options is simply staggering.

The options all over though are fantastic, and whittling them down to 37 is a tough job just for an article, let alone if you were Warren Gatland and you were doing it with the whole tour at stake.

Here though is my 2013 British & Irish Lions squad…for now:

Props: Dan Cole (England) Cian Healy (Ireland) Ryan Grant (Scotland) Euan Murray (Scotland) Gethin Jenkins (Wales) Adam Jones (Wales)

Hookers: Tom Youngs (England) Rory Best (Ireland) Richard Hibbard (Wales)

Locks: Joe Launchbury (England) Geoff Parling (England) Paul O’Connell (Ireland (if fit, otherwise Gray or Evans)) Donnacha Ryan (Ireland) Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

Back Row: Chris Robshaw (England) Jamie Heaslip (Ireland) Sean O’Brien (Ireland) Toby Faletau (Wales) Dan Lydiate (Wales) Justin Tipuric (Wales) Sam Warburton (Wales)

Scrum Halves: Ben Youngs (England) Greig Laidlaw (Scotland) Mike Phillips (Wales)

Fly Halves: Owen Farrell (England) Jonny Sexton (Ireland) James Hook (Wales)

Centres: Manu Tuilagi (England) Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) Jonathan Davies (Wales) Jamie Roberts (Wales)

Wings/Full Backs: Tommy Bowe (Ireland (if fit, otherwise Visser, Gilroy or Zebo)) Rob Kearney (Ireland) Stuart Hogg (Scotland) Alex Cuthbert (Wales) Leigh Halfpenny (Wales) George North (Wales)

Unlucky to miss out:

Paul James, Richardt Strauss, Ross Ford, Richie Gray, Ian Evans, Tom Wood, Johnnie Beattie, Tom Croft, Danny Care, Brad Barritt, Tim Visser, Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo, Mike Brown.

It is a tough squad, low on centres and wingers but high in versatility within the backline, there’s also a distinct lack of Englishmen in the back row with Tom Wood particularly unlucky to miss out, however in the interests of keeping the back row balanced there was just no room for him.

From that squad, my Lions XV for the 1st Test would be:

1. Cian Healy (Ireland) 2. Rory Best (Ireland) 3. Adam Jones (Wales) 4. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) 5. Geoff Parling (England) 6. Dan Lydiate (Wales) 7. Sam Warburton (Wales) 8. Toby Faletau (Wales) 9. Mike Phillips (Wales) 10. Jonny Sexton (Ireland) 11. George North (Wales) 12. Jamie Roberts (Wales) 13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) 14. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales) 15. Rob Kearnery (Ireland).

16. Richard Hibbard (Wales) 17. Gethin Jenkins (Wales) 18. Dan Cole (England) 19. Joe Launchbury (England) 20. Sean O’Brien (Ireland) 21. Greig Laidlaw (Scotland) 22. Owen Farrell (England) 23. Tommy Bowe (Ireland).

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions below or via twitter (@AngusSavageXV ), one thing is for sure; that will almost certainly not be the squad or team that goes to Australia, form and fitness will fluctuate between now and then and there will be players who shine on tour and demand selection.

Let us know what you think though; it would be great to see who you would have in your squad/team.

By Angus Savage

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