Angus Cross picks his British and Irish Lions 23-man squad ahead of next year’s tour to New Zealand.
1. Jack McGrath
McGrath’s improving quickly in the scrum and is a destructive force in the loose.
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.
3. WP Nel
He’s the best scrummaging tighthead in world rugby and part of a front row that will cause major problems.
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.
5. George Kruis
Kruis developed into a world-class line out operator and his work around the field is exemplary.
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.
7. John Hardie
The best out-and-out openside flanker in Europe. Will face off against his country of birth.
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.
9. Conor Murray
Murray’s game management at scrum half will be vital in beating the best team in world rugby.
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.
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.
12. Jamie Roberts
The definition of a big game player. Always brings out his best, whether playing for the Lions or for his country.
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.
14. Anthony Watson
Watson is lightning quick with good footwork. A natural finisher.
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.
16. Jamie George
George will push Hartley’s starting place for England in the next couple of months. A very promising talent.
17. Mako Vunipola
He illustrated his effectiveness from the bench time after time for his country and on the previous tour.
18. Dan Cole
Cole’s certainly back to his best and will add a different threat to WP Nell.
19. Maro Itoje
Itoje’s unlucky not to start but will add dynamism in attack and defence.
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.
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.
22. Johnny Sexton
The Leinsterman did well in an inconsistent Ireland team and his attacking spark puts him ahead of Dan Biggar.
23. Manu Tuilagi
On form he is a world-class player. Could well be starting if he gets back to his best.
Angus Cross, Pundit Arena
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