Potential Lions XV to play New Zealand in 2017

With the 2013 Lions tour of Australia in the books, the mind does invariably wander to the Lions’ next excursion, a trip to New Zealand in 2017. The yet to be named head coach, his personal game plan, and the emergence of young talent throughout the next four years will all have a great bearing on who lines up to face the first Haka of the series in just under four years time, but here’s some extremely early speculation on who those 15 men may just be…

1. Alex Corbisiero – England
It would take a brave man to bet against Corbisiero, Cian Healy and Mako Vunipola being the three loosehead props on the plane to New Zealand, but providing he can stay relatively injury free over the intervening years, Corbisiero could well be in pole position for the starters jersey. If Vunipola’s scrummaging develops over the coming years, it could be one of the hottest contended position battles of the 2017 tour.

2. Tom Youngs – England
The Leicester Tiger should be hitting his peak in four years time, and will likely see off competition from the likes of Dylan Hartley and Richard Hibbard, the latter of whom will be 33, and possibly beginning to decline. Richardt Strauss or Sean Cronin could also be in the mix, depending on who emerges as Ireland’s long-term replacement for Rory Best, whilst youngster Luke Cowan-Dickie has a decent chance of joining them, providing he can continue his impressive development with the Exeter Chiefs.

3. Dan Cole – England
As much as we would all like to see Adam Jones once more destroying Southern Hemisphere scrums, the Welshman will be 36 in 2017, and almost certainly out of Lions contention. Cole, an already formidable tighthead, will be 30 at the time of the tour, and should be hitting his peak. There are not too many other potential prospects currently playing at an international level in the home nations, and the Lions could well end up replying on some young prospects to push Cole for the starting jersey.

4. Richie Gray – Scotland
Gray was unlucky to come into this year’s Lions tour on the back of a disappointing season, which was marred by both injury and poor form, and likely contributed to his lack of appearances in the first two tests. His potential however is phenomenal, and you would expect his lineout ability to improve over the next four years and reach the same kind of proficiency he has already displayed with his ball carrying. Geoff Parling could also tour, and provide cover from the bench, especially if the Lions endure the same lineout struggles they have had this year.

5. Alun Wyn Jones – Wales
Hard to leave out a victorious Lions captain, especially when he will still only be 31 in 2017. Young England and London Wasps’ star Joe Launchbury is unlucky to miss out on a starting position, but could well force his way ahead of both Gray and Jones in the next few years if he continues to impress, as could Courtney Lawes if he can become more consistent.

6. Peter O’Mahony – Ireland
The Munsterman faces stiff competition from Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien, Tom Croft and Tom Wood for the blindside slot, but narrowly beats them out on the potential he offers. He’s a Munster and Ireland captain in waiting, and there seems to be no weak link to his game, despite the fact he is still just 23. Arguably the most talent rich position amongst the home nations currently, this position battle could well turn out to be the fiercest of the 2017 tour.

7. Sam Warburton (C) – Wales
Much of the criticism that surrounded the announcement of Warburton as captain this year was due to the fact people considered Warburton to be out of form, and that his place in the team was not guaranteed thanks to emergence of Justin Tipuric. That being said, when both players are on form, Warburton is still the better player in my mind, and his experience of captaining the Lions this year will be vital in New Zealand. A host of young English sevens such as Will Fraser, Matt Kvesic and Sam Jones could all be in with outside shots too.

8. Stephen Ferris – Ireland
Without doubt the riskiest selection in the team, but if Ferris can upset the odds and stay fit, he could be a difference maker on the tour. If it were not for injuries, Ferris would be a veteran of two Lions tours, and would have had a very good chance of being a test starter on both of those tours. Toby Faletau is the obvious choice if Ferris cannot stay fit, although he could be pushed close by the English duo of Ben Morgan and Billy Vunipola.

9. Ben Youngs – England
Youngs may have, on reflection, been outperformed by Conor Murray on this year’s tour, but the Leicester Tiger has a more well-rounded game than Murray, and an extra four years experience could well see Youngs as the premiere scrum half in Northern Hemisphere rugby. Greig Laidlaw and Danny Care could well tour, but may struggle to challenge Youngs and Murray for the starter’s jersey.

10. Jonathan Sexton – Ireland
Without doubt the toughest decision in the team, but ultimately caution won the day, and I stuck with the tried and tested Sexton. Both Ian Madigan and Owen Farrell were extremely close to pipping Sexton to the starting spot, but given the quality of the opposition the Lions will face in New Zealand, Sexton’s experience won through. To see Madigan oust Sexton from Ireland’s fly half spot would not be overly surprising during the next four years, whilst Farrell seems to have picked up a lot from this year’s Lions tour, and could well quiet the calls of ‘Freddie Burns for England’ during this upcoming season.

11. Simon Zebo – Ireland
Zebo electrified on this year’s tour following his call up as injury cover, and you’d expect him to go from strength to strength over the next four years. Concerns over Zebo’s similarity to the other winger in this squad could see Alex Cuthbert take his place, particularly if Cuthbert’s defence improves over the coming years.

12. Manu Tuilagi – England
The centre was unlucky to not feature more in the tests this year thanks to an injury he picked up in the warm up matches, but could well make this position his own for 2017 and beyond. Jamie Roberts will still certainly be in the mix in four years time, but Tuilagi’s dynamism could well give him the edge.

13. George North – Wales
Another risky call, and one that relies on North seeing game time at 13 for his new club, Northampton. Playing expansively, although not an alien concept to the Saints, is certainly not Northampton’s ‘Plan A’, and North could see time in the centres in an effort to get him more involved in the game. In this scenario, North would have to see off competition from national compatriot Jonathan Davies, as well as the ever improving Elliot Daly.

14. Christian Wade – England
Although Wade didn’t have the impact on the tour he would have liked this year, the experience should have benefitted the winger greatly, and he could well be ready to set the world alight come 2017. As mentioned in regards to Zebo, there may be concerns over playing two wingers so similar, and the likes of Tim Visser and Marland Yarde could also come into contention.

15. Leigh Halfpenny – Wales
The Welsh full back could yet earn himself a reputation as the greatest Lion of all time. Halfpenny earned himself the ‘Man of the Series’ accolade on his second Lions tour, at the young age of 24, and should have another two tours in him if he can stay healthy. It’s hard to see anyone ousting him from a position which he has made his own, but Stuart Hogg will certainly give it a good shot.

We’re aware of just how speculative this is – but who would you like to see appearing in a Lions jersey in four years time? Who do you back to emerge as contenders?

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

84 thoughts on “Potential Lions XV to play New Zealand in 2017

  1. Looking at it from the Irish perspective, there are a few names I would add to the mix.

    In terms of the front row, Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne (loose head) and Mike Sherry (hooker) may not be a million miles away. Kilcoyne is young, but coming off a huge breakthrough season and is established as back-up to Cian Healy at Ireland level, and Sherry, based on summer tour selection, has edged ahead of Sean Cronin in our pecking order.

    Ulster’s Iain Henderson (second row/flanker) is very much on an upward career curve and if he continues to develop may well become a first choice Irish lock sooner rather than later, as it is he made his Six Nations debut last season and filled the void left by Stephen Ferris at Ulster. It’s a very good time to be a decent, young lock in Ireland, as most of our front-line options are on the wrong side of 30, and Henderson (though he played most of his rugby last season in the back row) is probably at the front of the queue in the next wave.

    Two former Lions who have fallen off the map a little bit for different reasons are Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald. Both have struggled with form and fitness to varying degrees since the South African tour, but with a good run of games next season, either or both could get themselves back on track. I’m not saying they’re ‘probables’ for 2017, but if the cards fall their way, then they’re certainly ‘possibles’.

    Without blathering on too much more, a few more names to throw out there who might be in the frame come 2017 – Craig Gilroy, Tommy O’Donnell, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Marmion, and Luke Marshall.

    And of course, and this is true for all four nations, players will emerge between now and then who we’re not even aware of now. A good example from the current tour, Conor Murray didn’t breakthrough at Munster until 2011. All bar the most hardcore of devotees would’ve been forgiven for not knowing who he was at the time of the last Lions tour!

    1. I forgot about Henderson! I can definitely see him being a nailed on starter for the next series.

      Henshaw, Marmion, Kilcoyne, Archer, and Earls seem a bit dodgy yet. Most of them have yet to prove themselves at international level, and Earls is very out of form.

      Gilroy, O’Donnell and Marshall all are good shouts though. Wish there was an edit button on here!

    2. what a load of rubbish , only an Englishman can take the best wing in the word GN and put him in the centre… Christian Wade who the hell is he …. Toby Faletau , JD and Cuthbert will be there too…

      1. Christian Wade is an England, Wasps and now Lions winger. He is 20. Top Premiership scorer, both Young Player of the Year, and Player of the Year this season. Pretty good – look him up.

  2. I think you’ve gone and gotten Ferris and O’Mahoney’s positions mixed up! O’Mahoney plays both 6 and 8, and captained Ireland from the back of the scrum on the summer tour. Ferris is an out and out 6, and has never played anywhere else in the back row, to my knowledge. I’d love for him to be fit, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he’ll be forced into premature retirement. Real shame, because he’s the best 6 in the world when fit.

    I can’t see a future for North at 13. Like Bowe, he can cover 13, but undoubtedly his best position is wing. Chances are that’s where he’ll be in 2017, and depending on the coach, we could see some interesting choices in the centres. Tuilagi is undoubtedly there to stay, but the rest are very up in the air. England have a few good players coming through, like Eastmond. Barritt and 36 are still very questionable in terms of international quality, despite all the English media hyperbole, but 36 might make it as a midweek player, especially with his ability to cover 10. Ireland don’t have much in the way of centres coming through, although I must say I thought it was very harsh on McFadden not to get a callup to the Lions. He could well make the next tour if he continues to improve. Roberts and Davies could feature again, but due to the high injury rate that Warrenball incurs I’d be shocked if Roberts lasts another 4 years.

    With regards to wings, North is nailed on starter, obviously. Wade is probably too small, as harsh as it sounds. New Zealand would run all over him all day, especially with his poor defensive skills. Cuthbert also needs to work hard on his defense, he was lucky to make the test team this time round. England don’t seem to have much going on with the wings, with Ashton long forgotten. Ireland seem strong contenders to provide the other test winger, with Gilroy, Zebo, McFadden, and even Luke Fitzgerald, a previous Lion, all young enough and talented enough.

    The fly half will be very interesting, especially since both Farrell and Sexton are not guaranteed to hold on to their international places. Both Burns and Madigan are exciting options at 10. Rhys Patchell is also a great talent for Wales, and could soon dislodge the misfiring Biggar and Priestland.

    Youngs at scrum half is a very odd choice, considering Murray was by far the superior 9 on the tour. He also offers a lot more in defense, and looks like being a very influential member of a promising Munster team. That being said, at the start of the tour I wouldn’t have even selected Murray, and would have taken Laidlaw, but Murray definitely proved his class.

    The tight five I mostly agree with, save for Corbisero over Healy. 2 good games (albeit very good) doesn’t exactly dislodge Healy from a starting place. Were Healy fit, he’d have started all 3 tests, without any doubt. He combines the scrummaging of Corbs with the ball carrying of Vunipola, it’s a no brainer.

    Anyway, I’ve nattered on enough. Just think you could have looked outside the current Lions squad a little more for this article.

    1. Wade is about a stone heavier than a bloke called Shane Williams, he’s deceptively strong and breaks a lot of tackles. Sure he’s not a Maori side stepper, but I don’t think he’s too small to play the game at the highest level. Clearly work to do on defensive positioning, but he’s only 22.

      1. Shane Williams would be out of place in the modern game too. Nowadays, wingers are invariably a minimum of 6″2 and 15 stone. Williams himself wouldn’t stand a chance if he was starting out now, unfortunately. That’s just the way things have gone.

        I don’t doubt Wade’s attacking abilities, but his defense is a huge liability, and against the All Blacks of all teams, that just can’t be accepted.

        1. Williams was still going fine in 2011 (7 tries in 12 tests against top opposition), no evidence the game had outgrown him.

          I don’t see that being just over a stone lighter than Zebo/Gilroy counts Wade out as being too small. OK he’s only had one cap against a second string Argentina so hasn’t proven anything at international level yet, we are yet to find out if he is good enough. I would however be dismayed if England didn’t pick him due to his size though.

          1. That is true, good point. But even then he was considered very small for his position. How many other wingers of his ilk are playing at the top level, save Wade?

            Gilroy and Zebo are both excellent in attack, as well as ferocious defenders. Gilroy nearly broke Halfpenny in half a couple of times during that 6N game, and Zebo is no slouch either.

            The one time I’ve seen the full extent of Wade’s attacking ability was against Leinster, where he scored 2 admittedly fantastic tries. But he was also culpable for 2 Leinster tries. That’s not really acceptable going up against the AB.

          2. Forgot about 1/2p, he tips the scales at whole 1 lb more than Wade, he’s not exactly poor in the tackle or shabby under the high ball.

            Wade won’t be lining up against the ABs in 4 years without considerable improvement in his defensive positioning (and better work under a high ball), but I’m sure he will be physical enough.

          3. I don’t rate Halfpenny defensively either, but then again there aren’t a lot of fullbacks out there consistently good in the tackle. Halfpenny has a habit of getting steamrollered, or making the tackle and injuring himself (see last year against the Aussies in Cardiff)

            I agree his attack is good. It’s his defense that worries me. The AB just love sending huge forwards to run all over backs.

      2. Not a dis-similar size to Jason Robinson either – he seemed to do ok

        Wade’s defense isn’t as bad as people like to make out but his positioning does need work.

        There’s also Yarde, Daly and May coming through.

        As outsiders for England, both of whom showed well in the recent U20s – Antony Watson and Jack Nowell (who had a good run of games for Exeter last season)

        1. See my above point about the modern game. Robinson would be very out of place too.

          I’ve heard a lot of good things about May, but as it stands England haven’t exactly been flaunting their wing talents, with Ashton being probably the worst winger in the 6N last season, and Brown being played out of position. I didn’t catch the Argentina series, so maybe I missed something there.

        2. Darn, I need to jump in on a Welsh player criticism again – Halfpenny has the tendency to get steam rollered? When? He’s like a rock at the back for Wales. That one incident you single out is a bit unfair – he covered one of the field to the other in a desperate attempt to stop Beale who had broken through the Welsh lines and run the length of the field. Beale was practically over the line, 1/2p was at full tilt – the only thing he could do was launch himself at Beale and hope he knocked him into touch and he did this without a care for his own safety. He is a brilliant last line of defence.

          “Gilroy nearly broke Halfpenny in half a couple of times during that 6N game” – I was at that game – no he didn’t. Halfpenny was fine. Thundering hits for sure, but at no point did 1/2p look out of his depth against Gilroy. How many times did Gilroy break through him? Let’s not forget that Ire didn’t score a try in the last 30 which would normally be when a supposedly physically superior team would turn it on e.g. The Lions.

          1. Ah now, I know that Halfpenny’s the toast of the NH at the moment, but it is okay to admit that he has defensive frailties. No ones perfect. And this isn’t a Welsh thing at all, I’m an Irishman and a Leinster supporter and I readily admit that Rob Kearney is pretty poor as a the last line of defense in terms of tackling. That incident was just one that happened to spring to mind, I’ve seen him brushed aside with relative ease on other occasions too.

            And I wasn’t trying to imply that Halfpenny was out of his depth against Gilroy, just that Gilroy has a great defensive game as well as attack. I think you misread my post slightly. I was in fact referring to a couple of times when the Welsh were in the Irish 22 and the ball went wide, and Gilroy put in huge hits.

          2. Why would it be ok to admit defensive frailties when they are non-existent? Missing the odd tackle, which I can’t even remember him doing, but if he did then that doesn’t make him frail. If he was then I’d remember it

            Ok, Gilroy hit him hard. Being hit hard doesn’t matter, it’s how you cope that does, and 1/2p was fine.

          3. Well the defensive argument is going nowhere, i’ll leave that.

            Still missing my point. It was nothing to do with Halfpenny, I was just making a point about Gilroy’s defence. NOTHING TO DO WITH HALFPENNY.


          4. As an Englishman, I’ve always regarded 1/2p as defensively very sound. Personally I think that he’s got everything.

          5. Ceadog, I’ll admit I am confused – you shout “NOTHING TO DO WITH HALFPENNY” in a thread that started with “I don’t rate Halfpenny defensively either” and continued with “it is okay to admit that he has defensive frailties. No ones perfect”.

            If it’s not about Halfpenny then hopefully you’ll agree that mentioning him a few times indicated to me that it was.

        1. That’s a bit like saying Stuart Hogg should be fly half next time round, haha. My point was that O’Mahoney is more comfortable at 8 than Ferris, nothing more. He does have the build for 8 though. Surprising that Ulster didn’t use him off the back of the scrum like Leinster do with O’Brien sometimes, although I guess Wannenburg was no slouch when it came to crash ball…

    2. Correction- Ireland have no good outside centres coming though. They have a lot of good inside centres coming through Ulster- namely Stuart Olding and Luke Marshall.

  3. Can’t believe you’ve dropped BOD, this is outrageous.

    Jack Clifford was sensational @ 8 in the U20s, think he could be a future star.

    1. We’ll call up Darren Cave, it’ll be grand!

      I saw a couple of unreal Irish lads at the U20s, actually. A couple of 13s who look the real deal too.

    2. didnt Sam Davies pick up the young player of the year award?

      could be the next big thing at 10 for Wales, and maybe the lions. then again, so could Patchell…

  4. Good god man, I’m a doctor not a crystal ball reader..
    Actually, I’m neither but come on.. Here’s a bet for you:
    I’ll bet 5 players from your list will even be in the squad then. Nobody knows.

  5. Here’s my team:
    1.Cian Healy

    2.Tom Youngs

    3.Dan Cole

    4.Joe Launchbury

    5.Richie Gray

    6.Peter O’Mahoney

    7.Sam Warburton(c)

    8.Toby Faletau

    9.Ben Youngs

    !0.Owen Farrell

    11.Simon Zebo

    12.Luke Marshall

    13.Manu Tuilagi

    14.George North

    15.Stuart Hogg/Leigh Halfpenny

  6. I was thinking Billy Vunipola or Ben Morgan at 8. Four years is a long time, and both could be immense players by then. Also Kyle Eastmond is getting better and better, and could be a great partner for North in the midfield. I also think JD could easily retain his place at 13. Really depends on who the coach would be and how they want to play the game.

    Richard Cockerill as head coach!! Lol!!!!!

    1. Eastmond is a great talent, it’ll be interesting if he can maintain his early form. Morgan might be good too, if they can keep him away from McDonalds for the next 4 years. Can’t see him dislodging Faletau though. Vunipola is a good ball carrier, could do with expanding his game a bit though.

      1. Eastmond is quite a bit smaller than Wade! But he’s proving he can play prem rugby in the 10-15 shirts.

        I’m hoping he nails down the England 23 shirt this year.

        1. He’s only an inch shorter, and the same weight. But he also has a rugby league background, so he’s gotta be pretty defensively solid. I’ve never seen him play though, so I can’t really comment on him.

          10/15 don’t really require a huge build, considering they get quite a lot of cover from other players.

          1. He’s played 10 through to 15 (not 10 & 15), listed at 12st 8 as opposed to Wade’s 13st 8. Sure neither are giants and I am a little bit nervous about Eastmond settling on the role of a play making 12 when you think of the heavy traffic that comes down that channel. But he’s not been found wanting yet.

          2. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops then! The only reason I mentioned Wade’s size is because he seems to get steamrollered a lot, as well as getting brushed off. I’ve heard only good things about Eastmond, it’ll be interesting to see how he plays. Definitely would be nice to see something different to the boshers of Barritt and Tuilagi in the English midfield.

  7. I’ll have a go then:
    Warburton (c)

      1. To be honest I didn’t count nations I just wrote who came into my head. Can’t say I can think of many Irish guys that would come into this side though. Maybe Healy over Corbs but after last Saturday he has made himself a bit of a Lions legend. Other than that, who would you bring in? Maybe Zebo over Wade?

        1. If I had to pick a Lion’s team, with no injuries, I’d still pick Healy over Corbs. Corbs is a very good scrummager, but Healy offers an incredible amount in the loose and on the deck, as well as being a great scrummager. Like a combined Vunipola and Corbs really.

          Zebo over Wade for sure. Wade still has an incredible amount to prove, he hasn’t even nailed on an English place yet.

          Croft will be 31 in 4 years, I’d be shocked if he was still playing top level, so I’d be expecting O’Mahoney at 6, he’s gonna be huge. I have no idea who Clifford is, so I can’t comment on him really.

          If Cronin and Strauss sort out their lineouts they could seriously push Youngs for a position at hooker. I’m actually surprised Strauss didn’t get a call up, he’s been phenomenal for Leinster the past few seasons.

          Otherwise, no complaints here!

          1. Croft at 31 isn’t too old, and it’ll be his third Lions tour so I put him in. Lets me honest there are so many 6s around it could be one of about 10 players.

            Jack Clifford is the England u20s captain who just led them to the JWC – phenomincal no.8. – going to be one of the greats/

            I picked Wade more on the onus that its 4 years away, and his defensive positioning would have developed. Going forward, he is world class already.

          2. “Healy offers an incredible amount in the loose and on the deck, as well as being a great scrummager. Like a combined Vunipola and Corbs really.”

            You do realise you’ve just made him sound like the best loosehead ever? Seriously, if he can scrummage like Corbs and play loose like Vuni then that would be incredible. I’d posit that actually he can nowhere near scrummage like Corbisiero and for that reason Corbs will remain above him in the pecking order. As this series showed – props scrummage. Anything else is a bonus. A great scrummager always outweighs a half-tidy scrummager who is also good around the park.

          3. So Corbs is now the best scrummager out there after outrscummaging one of the weakest international packs in the top 10 nations? Come on. John Hayes would have had the Aussies flying backwards at a rate of knots, and he’s been retired for 3 years. Corbs could barely make the English 23 this 6 Nations. Cian Healy’s CV speaks for itself. Were he fit, he’d have played all 3 of those tests, and chances are Corbisero probably wouldn’t have made the 23.

          4. Corbs is becoming for England what Adam Jones is for Wales, our scrum is in big trouble without him. I wish he bad been in the 23 for the 6 nations (he was injured) as Cardiff may have been a less humiliating experience.

            Sadly he’s spent far too much time injured of late. Came back from injury in last years summer tour to SA and smashed their scrum, came back from injury again against the ABs in the autumn and that turned out a pretty good day …. then more injury.

            His last 6N game was vs Ireland 2012, where he dismantled Ross (though I don’t blame Court for what happened after Ross went off injured)

            Healy is a ‘good in the loose’ prop who has significantly improved his scrum. Corbs is an out and out hard scrummaging prop. I didn’t think Healy was looking too impressive in his 35 mins against the Force (i.e. we went better when Vunipola came on) so I’m not convinced Healy would have kept Corbs out of the starting test shirt for all 3 tests had he been fit.

          5. Cian Healy’s CV? What – scrummages well when he has some southerners helping him?

            Corbs was injured for the six nations, not deselected. When was fit last year he was also rampaging, it’s not just the Aussie front row that he has eaten.

          6. Didn’t realise he was out injured, my bad.

            Outscrummaging a tired and injury carrying Mike Ross isn’t that impressive, to be perfectly honest. Healy has done the job against South Africa too, so I’m not exactly sure what you’re getting at there…

            There’s a reason why Healy is often selected for world 15s, he provides good scrummaging and a huge work rate. Corbisero might offer scrum solidity, but he does buggerall in the loose (that try on Saturday a rare exception). I’ll admit he’s probably a better scrummager than Healy, but there’s not many looseheads out there better than Healy.

            “Cian Healy’s CV? What – scrummages well when he has some southerners helping him?”

            What are you referencing here exactly?

          7. The fact that you think Corbs offers nothing in the loose is madness. His carries are always well up there and he tackles all day.

            Also, what drunk people are putting Healy near a world 15?

          8. Ceadog, when you say “I’ll admit he’s probably a better scrummager than Healy, but there’s not many looseheads out there better than Healy.” then to me that is an oxymoron i.e. you can’t be a worse scrummager but a better loosehead – the better scrummager IS the better loosehead. To me, as I said at the start, the best scrummager is the only important thing, the rest is just trimmings.

            I’d also say that I’ve never seen Healy do anything in the loose to match Vuni – so he’s neither the best scrummager nor the best in the loose. Yeah, he’s won, as part of a unit, European cups, I assume this is the CV you mean. I’m not saying he’s rubbish, I’m saying he’s not one of the top 2 or 3 best looseheads in the B+Is so wouldn’t make my Lions squad let alone team.

            And yes, I know Gatland picked him; I don’t defer to coaches when stating my opinion on who the best players are and I don’t think that not being as qualified/experienced as Gatland prevents me from expressing an opinion.

  8. There’s plenty up and coming Scots too! To name a few: Hogg (obviously), Scott, Dunbar, Horne, Pyrgos, Weir, Fusaro. Not to mention older guys like Brown, Beattie, Visser, Grant etc who should still be in great shape.

  9. Corbs/Healy
    Youngs/Myall(young scarlet)
    AW Jones
    Sexton/Freddie Burns

    But who knows lot of talent on these shores

  10. Why have you got North at 13? The best winger in the world moved to 13? Is it (and this is a genuine question, not a dig) to make room for the Wade/Zebo pairing you have? I cannot see it happening, also because JD will continue to play 13 for Wales so North, even if he gets gametime at Northampton at 13 (and then add on if get gets any ball), will not be 13 in internationals.

    I’d add the previously mentioned Patchell and also Sam Davies who I think was this years IRB young player of the year?

    1. Oh, and I disagree with the Tuilagi idea. The idea that he is more “dynamic” than JR mystifies me. He certainly has not looked so this year and JR was not even on top form. So I think the centres will be JR/JD again.

      Coach? Might it be a case of who wants it given how hard it is i.e. you need a lot of slack from your union and you’ll be kicked from pillar to post for the entire duration. If you lose, well….

      1. Tuilagi is faster, has a vastly superior strike rate, and has become a better provider through his offloading ability.

        Roberts is a far better defender and runs better lines at 12.

        Unless Tuilagi moves to 12 and plays there for club and country a Lions tour isn’t going to be the best place to learn a new position. So I would pick him @ 13. I would be struggling to find any evidence that Roberts is the more dynamic of the 2 though.

        4 years in Paris and he could literally grow in the next Bastaraud though!

      2. I thought that we had agreed that it shouldn’t be one of the current home nations coaches!

        1. Definitely, definitely, definitely. Don’t want to go through all of that 2001/2013 rubbish again.

  11. Would definitely go Morgan at 8. He’s still very inexperienced and with another 4 years under his belt, he could be something special. Not sure about Vunipola – quite one dimensional, but young yet.

    Not sure the England 7’s will get enough experience. First they’ve got to get past Robshaw and secondly they will be fighting each other for places.

    1. I agree that Morgan looks good but Fale is 2 years younger than him – given how good Fale looks already, how quick he has risen through the ranks and how well he copes with playing at a mediocre region I’ve got to say that I can’t see past Fale as the 8.

      1. Didn’t realise Fale was younger. Could be an interesting battle. England really missed Morgan after his injury in the 6N.

  12. Far too conservative, maybe not the starting 15 but a few I’d like to see…

    1. Grant
    2. Strauss
    3. WP Nel
    4. Jonny Gray
    5. Launchbury
    6. Mike Phillips
    7. S. Armitage
    8. Billy Vunipola
    9. Luke McGrath
    10. Sam Davies
    11. Jamie Farndale
    12. Mark Bennett
    13. Luke Marshall
    14. Shane Willams
    15. 1/2p (c)

  13. 1: Alex Corbisiero
    2: Tom Youngs
    3: Dan Cole
    4: Joe Launchbury
    5: Alun-Wyn Jones
    6: Chris Robshaw (c) [Based on choice of coach below]
    7: Justin Tipuric
    8: Toby Faletau
    9: Ben Youngs
    10: Freddie Burns/Owen Farrell
    11: Marland Yarde
    12: Matt Scott
    13: Manu Tuilagi
    14: George North
    15: Leigh Halfpenny

    16: Richardt Strauss
    17: Cian Healy
    18: ????? Real lack of candidates here!
    19: Richie Gray
    20: Sean O’Brien
    21: Henry Pyrgos
    22: Owen Farrell/Ian Madigan
    23: Simon Zebo

    1. Are you mad? 10 English men? 4 into 1? Lions tradition. Mutter mutter. It’s heresy. Keith Wood is going to have a stroke. Ian Robertson is going to think all his Christmases have come at once.

      Seriously though – Robshaw? He’s not even the best six in England. Ah, I see the o’shea for coach now. Sorry, thought this was serious for a second.

  14. Sorry Ceadog but given that England and Wales are the top two teams in the northern hemisphere and England narrowly pipped Wales in the u20s World Cup final it will be a lions dominated by those two nations (though I wouldn’t bet against mr Schmidt having something to say about that). Also given the current lions from the test 23 that will be young enough in 4 years were mostly welsh and English…

    My test team would be:

    1. Corbs
    2. T. Youngs
    3. Cole
    4. Gray
    5. Wyn jones
    6. O’mahoney
    7. Warburton
    8. Morgan
    9. Youngs
    10. Farrell/madigan
    11. North
    12. Davies
    13. Tuilagi
    14. Wade
    15. 1/2p

    But I look forward to being proved wrong!

    1. You’re probably right, but I’d put most of that down to Kidney’s lack of giving younger players international experience. It’ll be interesting to see how Schmidt fares in the international setup, he wasn’t afraid to give younger guys a run in his time at Leinster and Clermont!

  15. 1. Corbisiero/vunipola
    2. Youngs/best/hibbard
    3. Cole
    4. Awj/launchbury
    5. Gray/evans
    6. Wood/croft/sob
    7. Tipuric/warburton/s armitage
    8. Clifford/vunipola/faletau
    9. Laidlaw/c Murray
    13. Scott/j Davies
    14, zebo/wade/maitland
    15. 1/2p/Hogg/Elliot daly

      1. Yes James and Ceadog, me advancing the idea that Corbisiero is a much better loosehead than Healy is obviously an attempt to get the entire team to be Welsh.

        Hopefully the sarcasm isn’t lost you on you – you do realise that Corbs is English, don’t you?

        Given that you Ceadog started your comments on this thread with a query on why so few Irishmen and perhaps a little ironic moan that you didn’t realise you had so little talent coming through I think any nationality preference is clear.

        To be cear – for me this is nothing to do with countries – Corbs is the best loosehead in th B&I and I cannot see him getting anything except better.

    1. James, my “10 Englishman” thing was a joke. Don’t know if you read the news before the last test? You might have caught the odd mention of “10 Welshmen” causing a stir. I was making a joke through drawing a parallel.

      1. Don’t worry Brighty, it made me chuckle! But you are wrong on the Corbs is English thing. He’s a yank of Italian descent, so I guess that makes him as English as our midfield and most of the cricket team!! Nothing wrong with a bit of international flavour to things.

        1. he is of italian and english decent (had an english grandmother – which as we saw with Waldrom, automatically qualifies you, regardless of residency length)

          he was born in NYC, but moved to england aged 5.

          he is the great grandson of an italian immigrant.

          regardless of his decent, he lives in and plays for england. he has lived here since he was 5.

          as someone who has bounced around the world a bit, personally, i am not too fussed about a players background, just whether they are willing to give it all for the nation they are representing.

          i recall Tuilagi being interviewed once, he was asked about Samoa and England. his response was along the lines of “Samoa is my heritage, England is my home”.
          after all, i have seen Tuilagi, Corbisero and Barritt (not that i put Corbs in the same bracket as them) give a lot more for that rose than some players.

  16. Corbs – Vunipola
    Youngs – Cowan Dickie
    Cole – Thomas
    AWJ – Coombs – Slater
    Launchbury – Gray
    Lydiate – Wood – SOB
    Warburton – Kvesic – Fraser
    Morgan – Faletau
    Youngs – Murray
    Sexton – Farrell – Madigan
    North – yarde
    Twelvetrees – Roberts – Daly
    Tuilagi – Davies
    Wade – Zebo – Watson
    Halfpenny – hogg

  17. Gatland – head coach
    O’Connor – assistant coach
    Gustard – defence
    Schmidt – attack
    Lancaster – tour manager

    1. Robbo, Lancaster as tour manager? I can’t see him accepting a non-rugby role; in fact, he’d view that as a bit of a kick in the teeth to be involved on the logistics side but not the rugby side?

  18. Going for a really physical team. especially pack.

    Corbs, Youngs, Cole – Healy on the bench. not sure about the others now.
    AWJ, Gray – Launchbury on the bench. Ryan as a tourist too. Henderson could travel as a lock
    Ferris, Warburton, Morgan. Vunipola, Faletau or SOB on the bench. Wood, Robshaw and O’Mahony round too.
    9 Youngs and Murray. would take Laidlaw as something different.
    10s are a toughy. so much could change. Sexton to go. Farrell could too. Madigan as a “utility”
    Manu, Davies and maybe Roberts (if still fit and firing) as centres. Twelvetrees and Marshall could travel too.
    Wade, Zebo, North and Daly as wingers? not sure on Daly as a wing yet. trying to fit him in really.
    1/2p and Hogg as 15’s. Madigan can cover. as could Daly, so would probably pick another winger too.

    Expect North to play wing, even at saints. they will look to have him play off Foden (like Ashton used to)
    Also, with Burrell, G. Pisi and Waldock, i dont see them playing north at centre too much (could happen though). I would expect him to play 11, and K. Pisi and Elliott have a shootout for 14. James Wilson probably has the 22/23 shirt, as he covers 10-15. with Lamb leaving, there is an opening on the bench, so that will probably go to one of the centres/wingers that will miss out. likely to be either elliott or waldock, imo.

  19. So looking at past tours I’ve looked at the amount of players retained in each position etc and this is the squad that potentially could travel.

    Looseheads: Alex Corbisiero, Cian Healy, Mako Vunipola
    Potential: Ryan Bevington

    Hookers: Tom Youngs, Ken Owens, Luke Cowan-Dickie
    Potential: Richard Hibbard

    Tightheads: Dan Cole, Craig Mitchell

    Locks: Alun Wyn Jones, Joe Launchbury, Richie Gray, Courtney Lawes, Lloyd Peers

    Back-Row: Sam Warburton (c), Matt Kvesic, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau, Jack Clifford
    Potential: Stephen Ferris (although apparently he has no fluid left in his knees), Steffon Armitage, Ross Rennie, Justin Tipuric

    Scrum Half: Conor Murray, Danny Care, Gareth Davies (he’s in the Mike Phillips mould and will in my opinion get capped soon. Watch his space).
    Potential: Ben Youngs, Greig Laidlaw

    Outside Half: Freddie Burns, Jonathan Sexton, Rhys Patchell
    Potential: Iain Madigan, Owen Farrell

    Centres: Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Manu Tuilagi, Luke Marshall, Elliot Daly
    Potential: Billy Twelvetrees, Ashley Beck

    Wings: George North, Simon Zebo, Christian Wade, Eli Walker
    Potential: Alex Cuthbert, Craig Gilroy

    Full Backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg

    Some gaps can be filled like at tighthead. I think Craig Mitchell will develop nicely in a great tighthead. He did well in the 2011 Six Nations and although his progress has been hindered by moving to Exeter Chiefs he will be there in 2017. I guess we’ll see…

    My team:

    1. Cian Healy
    2. Ken Owens
    3. Dan Cole
    4. Alun Wyn Jones
    5. Joe Launchbury
    6. Dan Lydiate
    7. Sam Warburton (C)
    8. Jack Clifford
    9. Conor Murray
    10. Jonathan Sexton
    11. George North
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Jonathan Davies
    14. Simon Zebo
    15. Leigh Halfpenny

    16. Tom Youngs
    17. Alex Corbisiero
    18. Craig Mitchell
    19. Courtney Lawes
    20. Sean O’Brien
    21. Danny Care
    22. Freddie Burns
    23. Manu Tuilagi

  20. First XV: 1.Healy 2.Hartley 3.Cole 4.AWJ 5.Launchbury 6.Lydiate 7.Warburton 8.Faletau 9.Murray 10.Sexton 11.North 12.Roberts 13.Davies 14.Cuthbert 15.Halfpenny

    Bench: 16.Youngs 17.Corbisiero 18.Wilson 19.Gray 20.O’Brien 21.Youngs 22.Farrell 23.Tuilagi

    Reserves: Vunipola, Andrews, Strauss, Lawes, O’Mahoney, Tipuric, Morgan, Care, Madigan, Scott, Wade, Zebo, Hogg

  21. 1. Alex Corbisiero (Adam Jones had almost a loosehead equal to his scrimmaging artistry in the final test, and as saw from that game the scrum is the key platform for all other play)
    2. Tom Youngs (although I think Hibbard is the better player, Youngs offers huge potential, and Hibbard will have faded by 2017)
    3. Henry Thomas (one of England’s biggest hopes for the future)
    4. Joe Launchbury (diversely talented in the extreme, with huge potential)
    5. Alun Wyn Jones (would be in the World XV let alone an all-star northern hemisphere side like the Lions)
    6. Dan Lydiate (unbelievable defensive ability and a chop tackle that halves the difficulty to find turnovers from the jackal)
    7. Sam Warburton (C) (unfairly criticized and a world class 7 on his day)
    8. Toby Faletau (majestic player at the top of his game)
    9. Conor Murray (got to say I didn’t think much of him before the tour, but my opinion of him has flipped)
    10. Jordan Williams (very speculative but Williams’ attacking skillset harks back to the great Welsh halfbacks of the 70s, and he will be world class if managed properly)
    11. George North (another player who would likely be included in a World XV, with a complete set of skills and considerable physical prowess)
    12. Jamie Roberts (so much more than just a battering ram, although it is easy to see why he is labelled as such. Roberts has hidden skills that Gatland’s use of him doesn’t bring out, but tactics that promote a more expansive game would bring out the best in him)
    13. Kyle Eastmond (another long shot, but after having watched him against Argentina it is clear there is little rival for his flair in the midfield. Another 3 or 4 years and he should have truly settled into Union)
    14. Christian Wade (there has been no replacement for Shane Williams’ step and acceleration in world rugby, but Wade has the phenomenal potential to be his Lions’ successor)
    15. Leigh Halfpenny (should definitely win World Player of the Year. Outstanding in the autumn last year despite Wales losing every match they played against Australia, Player of the Six Nations, and Lions Player of the Series. He is truly world class, and while his attacking attributes are not as explosive as, say Israel Dagg’s, his all round game will almost certainly be unmatched for years to come.

  22. Just a few points in favour of us Irish, our club teams are performing brilliantly and our national team has simply extremely underperformed under Kidney. Also, at the U20’s world cup we lost a close match to NZ 31-26 I think, with our best player injured (Tom Daly). Also Stuart Olding and Robbie Henshaw were touring with the senior squad, two of the best U20 Irish players. Just saying.

  23. Now i love a bit of armchair selection but i doubt any of us even got this year’s lions squad exactly correct before it was announced, so guessing who will be selected in four years time is pretty impossible i’d say. Sure we can say which players have potential but so much rests on the international coaches and who they select over the next four years, and how the world cup goes in between now and then.

  24. All this talk makes the appetite whet for england vs wales in the rwc!! What a game that is going to be! At the moment (as an englishmab) i would say wales edge it

  25. This May be a bit biased from a Scotsman but
    2. Youngs
    3. Cole
    4. Gray
    5. Launchbury or AWJ
    6. O’Mahony
    7. Fusaro
    8. Vunipola
    9. Youngs
    10. Sexton
    11. North
    12. Scott
    13. Davies
    14. Wade/Yarde
    15. Halfpenny

    16. MacArthur?
    17. Grant
    18. Thomas
    19. Lawes/ J Gray?
    20. Warburton
    21. Murray
    22. Hogg
    23. Tuilagi

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