15. Leigh Halfpenny
A no-brainer. Halfpenny’s kicking won the first test for the Lions and it was his brilliance that set-up the two second-half tries in the final test that saw the Lions stretch clear of Australia. A more than deserved man of the series.
14. Israel Folau
Folau had a quiet second and third tests, but announced himself to the world with a brace in the first. It included a mazy, beautifully-balanced run to the tyline that bamboozled Johnny Sexton and Alex Corbisiero. A world-class finisher.
13. Jonathan Davies
He didn’t have a great time of things at 12 in the first two tests, but once he shifted to his preferred outside centre spot he comprehensively outplayed opposite man Adam Ashley-Cooper, who nonetheless had a decent series. Davies’ performance was made all the better by the pressure on him after the furore surrounding his replacing BOD.
12. Christian Leali’ifano
We will never know how the series might have unfolded had he stayed on the pitch and kicked his goals in the first test – best not to think about it really. Still, he looked completely at home in the test match arena, and unless you knew otherwise you would have sworn he’d been playing at this level for years.
11. George North
Like Folau he was quieter in the second two tests, but unlike Folau he still managed to cross the line. The series’ joint top try scorer, his effort in the first test will go down in history as one of the great Lions tries.
10. Johnny Sexton
Like so many others, he had a quietly efficient series until the final test, when he sprung into life. Orchestrated a back-line that blew the Australians away in the second half of that game. Playing opposite a man clearly uncomfortable with his position helped him.
9. Will Genia
All the Lions’ fears about this man were confirmed within the first ten minutes of the test series, as he took a quick tap and ripped their (albeit weak) defence to shreds. He was the architect of most of the excellent things they did – there is no one in his league in world rugby currently.
1. Alex Corbisiero
The difference in the scrums when he played and didn’t was beyond stark, and that can’t all be down to the referee. His technique is excellent and along with Adam Jones formed a unit that was way too good for the Aussies. Also got his hands on the ball a surprising amount in the third test.
2. Tom Youngs
This was a borderline call, as Stephen Moore was excellent for Australia. Youngs, however, put in one of the performances of his (admittedly short) career in Brisbane in the first test. The line-out went well and he was everywhere, carrying ball over the gain-line and smashing attackers back. Sublime stuff.
3. Adam Jones
Completing, unsurprisingly, an all-Lions front row is the shaggy haired Welshman who joined Corbisiero in giving the Australian front-row nightmares. A prop’s job is, first and foremost, to scrummage – in that regard there are few, if any, better than Jones.
4. Alun-Wyn Jones
This giant lock must have been up there in the man-of-the-series stakes as well. There are few who show their passion quite so obviously, and it was almost poetic that it was he who got to lead the Lions to a series victory. His ball-carrying was destructive and work-rate never-ending.
5. Geoff Parling
James Horwill came close to this spot, but lost out for some strange decision making at crucial times. Parling stepped into the great O’Connell’s shoes with aplomb, putting himself about the park with endless enthusiasm. And that tap-tackle on Jesse Mogg will live long in the memory.
6. Ben Mowen
Another Australian debutant that makes this team. Mowen was abrasive and physically imposing throughout the series, giving Mike Phillips a particularly torrid time. He was also a vital source of line-out ball and a nuisance on the Lions’ throw.
7. Sam Warburton
Michael Hooper can count himself unlucky, but Warburton’s second test performance gets him into this team. When the Lions needed him most, with O’Connell down and out, he stood up and so nearly led them to the series victory. Unlucky to be ruled out with injury for the final test, he will nevertheless go down in history as a winning Lions captain.
8. Toby Faletau
This is perhaps the position with no outstanding candidate. Wycliff Palu played all three tests but did little to distinguish himself, while Jamie Heaslip struggled through two. Faletau comprised part of an excellent back-row unit in the final test, and carried more ball than anyone on the pitch. For that reason, despite only playing one test, he makes the team.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43