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England’s 15 Most Likely Lions

England are arguably now the best they’ve been since the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

After their disappearance at the World Cup last year, the forwards are again terrorising their opposite numbers while Eddie Jones also has pace and creativity amongst his back line. Elsewhere, the Ford-Farrell axis creates the space for the lightning-quick Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph.

With the Lions tour coming up next year you’d be right in thinking the team will have a large English contingent, but Jones has set his sights on sending a huge fifteen players alongside a few of his coaching staff.

“I would be disappointed if we did not get at least 15 players on the Lions tour and hopefully get one or two of our coaches on the coaching staff,” Jones told Sky Sports.

This is a bold claim from the Australian. Having only had ten players originally selected for the 2013 Lions tour, 15 players this time around around would be an outstanding achievement.

Here are the XV England players most likely to get called up to the Lions squad:

The Forwards

Mako Vunipola

It’s difficult to name anyone in his position who had as good a year. How many can claim to have won every tournament they played in last year? Vunipola can.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25: Mako Vunipola of Saracens looks to break through the London Scottish defence during the pre season friendly match between Saracens and London Scottish FC at Honourable Artillery Company on August 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

No other loose-head has better hands than the Saracens man and his attacking threat is greater than the rest.

Dylan Hartley

With his experience and leadership, Hartley must be on that plane. A set-piece expert with the best throwing stats as well as being a top defender. This considered, Hartley is tipped by many for the Lions captaincy.

Dan Cole

You know what you’ll get with Cole – solid on his side of the scrum and high work rate in defence.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Dan Cole of England dives over for the first try during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and England at Allianz Stadium on June 25, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Cole can play at his best for the full 80 minutes and makes his mark on the game every time.

George Kruis

England’s lineout guru, ball carrier and, importantly, Maro Itoje’s partner in crime.

Kruis isn’t given the credit he deserves for the hard work he’s put in. Without his tackling and lineout success England would be far worse off.

Maro Itoje

The European Player of the Year, who can play two positions to an international standard, last year didn’t lose a single game he started.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Maro Itoje of England runs with the ball during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and England at Allianz Stadium on June 25, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

With his winning mentality coinciding with his physicality, Itoje is the first name on any team sheet.

Chris Robshaw

Previously snubbed by the Lions, the flanker will be seeking to redeem himself.

His tackle count is always up there and he’s good with the ball in hand. A worthy choice particularly if he’s to play at blindside.

James Haskell

Despite only playing two games, Haskell was England’s best player against Australia. The man mountain is England’s best tackler and hitter.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 11: James Haskell of England celebrates with team mate George Ford after winning the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and England at Suncorp Stadium on June 11, 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

If you factor this in with his new impressive work at the breakdown he’s become one of Europe’s best.

Billy Vunipola

Bulldozer, powerhouse and machine, all words that perfectly suit Vunipola. The biggest and scariest man to ever emerge from the back of the scrum. Always tops ball carrying and tackle charts as well as posing as a try threat.

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The Backs

Ben Youngs

Threatening from whatever situation and has a great kicking game.

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Ben Youngs of Leicester celebrates as Leicester Tigers score a last minute match winning push over try during the Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester and Leicester Tigers at Kingsholm Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

His sniping runs cause havoc to any defence he plays against. Also his box kick are great if the Lions want to play a territory-based game.

Owen Farrell

The man from Wigan was nothing short of exceptional last season. His goal kicking and distribution lead his side to success.

Not only a creator but also a rock solid defender.

George Ford

Ford had a great summer tour and started the season better than any other English player. Under Todd Blackadder, Ford looks refreshed and rejuvenated.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: George Ford of Bath in action during the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Bath at Franklin's Gardens on September 3, 2016 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

His kicking from hand and timing of pass is just tremendous.

Manu Tuilagi

A wrecking ball with valuable Lions experience. In recent years injuries have plagued the centre, however having made the cut in 2013 Tuilagi has unfinished business with the Lions.

When fit he’s a world beater and simply cannot be stopped. His power and speed could be a deadly weapon.

Jonathan Joseph

Why wouldn’t the outside centre try machine with speed not be considered for the tour? For many reasons the Bath man is often compared to Jeremy Guscott, and rightly so.

BATH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Bath centre Jonathan Joseph breaks the tackle of Mike Delany of the Falcons during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Newcastle Falcons at Recreation Ground on September 10, 2016 in Bath, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

His speed allows him to score try after try. He can also pass, tackle and kick, making him the perfect centre.

Anthony Watson

Not only can he finish superbly, but Watson can kick and run faster than anyone else in the squad. Wherever he is on the pitch Watson looks like he’s about to score.

The 22-year-old is simply impossible to stop when he sees the white lines.

Jack Nowell

England’s sharp winger knows where the try line is and is superb in defence considering his size. His stepping skills are incredible and, like Watson, he delivers under pressure.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Jack Nowell of England is tackled by Michael Hooper during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and England at Allianz Stadium on June 25, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

More importantly, he can cover 13 and 15 as well as the wing.

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Patrick Perry, Pundit Arena

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