The countdown is well and truly on to the first Lions Test against the All Blacks, with the fixture now less than one week away.
Warren Gatland’s team selections for the last two matches, on Saturday against the Maori All Blacks and the upcoming clash against the Chiefs, would suggest that the Text XV is close to being finalised. Injury concerns to the likes of Owen Farrell and Leigh Halfpenny notwithstanding, there are probably going to be very few surprises when the starting XV is announced later in the week.
Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan, writing for the Telegraph on Sunday, has given his two cents on his picks for that first Test – and there is no place for captain Sam Warburton.
Instead, the four-time tour coach has selected Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony to lead the side, just as he did on Saturday. Next to the Munster man in the back row, he has opted for compatriot Sean O’Brien and Toby Faletau.
Mako Vunipola and Tadhg Furlong are selected as props, with Jamie George in between them at hooker. The all-English duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje, meanwhile, make up the second row.
In the great Johnny Sexton vs. Owen Farrell at fly-half debate, McGeechan has selected the versatile Englishman, with Conor Murray unsurprisingly in at scrum-half. There are no surprises on the wings either with George North and Anthony Watson picked, but McGeechan interestingly opts for Jonathan Davies in at centre to partner Ben Te’o, not least because many would be of the opinion that Jonathan Joseph would be in there at number 13.
Rounding off the fifteen, the Lions legend selects Welshman Leigh Halfpenny at full-back, whose place (assuming he passes the HIA this week) is virtually assured now since Stuart Hogg’s withdrawal due to injury.
Ian McGeechan’s Lions XV To Face The All Blacks
9. Conor Murray (IRL)
10. Owen Farrell (ENG)
11. George North (WAL)
12. Ben Te’o (ENG)
13. Jonathan Davies (WAL)
14. Anthony Watson (ENG)
15. Leigh Halfpenny (WAL)
1. Mako Vunipola (ENG)
2. Jamie George (ENG)
3. Tadhg Furlong (IRL)
4. George Kruis (ENG)
5. Maro Itoje (ENG)
6. Peter O’Mahony (c) (IRL)
7. Sean O’Brien (IRL)
8. Toby Faletau (WAL)