Who Will Start Against the All Blacks on 24th June?
On Wednesday 19th April 2017, coach Warren Gatland announced the 41-man squad to tour and beat New Zealand in the summer. There were some surprise inclusions and omissions, but the general consensus is that this is a strong squad.
The last British Lions team to win a series in New Zealand was in 1971. Coached by the legendary Carwyn James and captained by Welshman John Dawes, the Lions won the series 2-1 with the final test in Auckland being drawn.
So how does the present Lions squad compare? We look at the Lions team who started the First Test against the All Blacks and compare against a predicted team for the 2017 selection:
Full Back – 15
JPR Williams (Wales) started in 1971 as 1 of 6 Welsh players in a formidable back line. Our prediction for 2017 is the best defensive 15 in the world, another Welshman, Leigh Halfpenny.
Wings – 11 & 14
Another 2 Welshman, Gerald Davies and John Bevan terrorised the All Blacks from out wide. In 2017, George North (Wales) will be given the task of thundering into the opposition, supported by the speed and slight-of-foot of Stuart Hogg (Scotland).
Centres – 12 & 13
Captain John Dawes lined up with Irish legend Mike Gibson in 1971. In one of the most hotly contested positions on tour, Own Farrell (England) will start at 12 with Jonathan Davies (Wales) outside.
Fly/Outside Half – 10
One of the best players to grace the rugby field wore the number 10 shirt in 1971. Welshman Barry John. But in 2017, it will be an Irishman, Johnny Sexton, who is given the responsibility.
Scrum Half – 9
Another legend of the game, Gareth Edwards, played scrum half in 1971. Legend has it that his partnership with Barry John was created in heaven. Another Welshman will don the number 9 shirt in 2017, Ospreys Rhys Webb.
Mervyn Davies (Merv-the-swerve) joined the contingent of Wales players in the team packing down at number 8 in 1971. In 2017, Billy Vinopola (England) will take on the responsibility to carry the ball across the gain line from the start.
Back Row – 6 & 7
A Welshman, John Taylor, and Englishman, Peter Dixon, teamed up to tame the All Blacks in 1971. In 2017, the blindside number 6 spot will be taken by CJ Stander (Ireland) with tour captain Sam Warburton (Wales) at 7. Although could Sam start at 6?
Second Row – 4 & 5
Lions legend, Willie John McBride (Ireland) packed down with W D Thomas of Wales and Llanelli in the engine room. In probably the most highly contested position on tour, veteran Alun Wyn-Jones (Wales) will join forces with Lions debutante Maro Itoje (England) in a forceful second row.
Props – 1 & 3
The props who made up the 1971 Front Row were J F Lynch (Ireland) and Mighty Mouse, Ian McLauchlan (Scotland). On this tour there were will be players selected specifically as starters and substitutes and for that reason Dan Cole (England) and Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) get the nod.
Hooker – 2
English great John Pullin was the man in the middle of the scrum in 1971. When the packs sets the first scrum in New Zealand on 24th June, Welshman Ken Owens will be balanced between his two props.
There is still a lot of rugby to be played before the British Lions face the All Blacks in the First Test and injuries will play a major part in the selection of the team. The question is whether this Lions side would be good enough to beat the All Blacks on their turf. Feedback is welcomed!
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