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Picking A British And Irish Lions 23-Man Squad Ahead Of 2017’s Tour

Angus Cross picks his British and Irish Lions 23-man squad ahead of next year’s tour to New Zealand. 

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1. Jack McGrath

McGrath’s improving quickly in the scrum and is a destructive force in the loose.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 12: Jack McGrath of Ireland runs with the ball during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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2. Dylan Hartley

The England captain developed into a real leader during the Six Nations and his qualities will be essential. His basic skills in the set-piece are second to none.

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3. WP Nel

He’s the best scrummaging tighthead in world rugby and part of a front row that will cause major problems.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 05: WP Nel passes the ball during the Scotland captain's run at Murrayfield Stadium on February 5, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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4. Alun Wyn-Jones (C)

Wales’ talisman will finish his career with the respect of Paul O’Connell and Martin Johnson if he captains the Lions to a winning series.

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5. George Kruis

Kruis developed into a world-class line out operator and his work around the field is exemplary.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: George Kruis of England is tackled by Justin Tipuric (L) and Gareth Davies (R) of Wales during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 12, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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6. James Haskell

Haskell shifts across the back row to his preferred 6 jersey. Hard hitting workhorse necessary for facing New Zealand. Also will be the fittest member of the squad.

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7. John Hardie

The best out-and-out openside flanker in Europe. Will face off against his country of birth.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 06: John Hardie of Scotland makes a break during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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8. Billy Vunipola

Simply unplayable at times in this Six Nations. Vunipola will continue to improve and become the best no. 8 in the world.

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9. Conor Murray

Murray’s game management at scrum half will be vital in beating the best team in world rugby.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Conor Murray of Ireland passes the ball during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on February 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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10. Owen Farrell

Johnny Sexton will add flair off of the bench but the ever-improving Farrell will command a powerful back line and kick his goals.

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11. George North

Reestablished world-class status by scoring four tries in four matches. On form he is up there with the best wingers in the world, as he proved in Australia last time around.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 19: George North of Wales races away to score during the RBS Six Nations match between Wales and Italy at the Principality Stadium on March 19, 2016 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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12. Jamie Roberts

The definition of a big game player. Always brings out his best, whether playing for the Lions or for his country.

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13. Duncan Taylor

Taylor proved his unique qualities in this year’s Six Nations. He has pace, power and a fantastic set of ball skills that will trouble the All Blacks.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 19: Duncan Taylor of Scotland is tackled by Jonathan Sexton and Robbie Henshaw of Ireland during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on March 19, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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14. Anthony Watson

Watson is lightning quick with good footwork. A natural finisher.

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15. Stuart Hogg

Proved himself to be the best full back in Europe this year. Solid in defence but it is in attack where his talent shines, demonstrated by his superb try against Ireland. Recently crowned Six Nations Player of the Tournament. 

during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on March 19, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.

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16. Jamie George

George will push Hartley’s starting place for England in the next couple of months. A very promising talent.

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17. Mako Vunipola

He illustrated his effectiveness from the bench time after time for his country and on the previous tour.

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Mako Vunipola of England takes on the France defence during the RBS Six Nations match between France and England at Stade de France on March 19, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

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18. Dan Cole

Cole’s certainly back to his best and will add a different threat to WP Nell.

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19. Maro Itoje

Itoje’s unlucky not to start but will add dynamism in attack and defence.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: England player Maro Itoje races past Alex Cuthbert of Wales to set up the first England try during the RBS 6 Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 12, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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20. Toby Faletau

Faletau is another man unlucky not to be starting and another player the All Blacks will be sorry to see being brought on.

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21. Gareth Davies

It’s a tough choice between Davies and Danny Care for the role of adding speed to the back line at the latter stage of the game. Davies scored tries and played very well during the Six Nations so just gets in.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Gareth Davies of Wales charges towards George Ford of England during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 12, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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22. Johnny Sexton

The Leinsterman did well in an inconsistent Ireland team and his attacking spark puts him ahead of Dan Biggar.

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23. Manu Tuilagi

On form he is a world-class player. Could well be starting if he gets back to his best.

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on March 17, 2016 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Angus Cross, Pundit Arena

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