Only three Irish players make Dylan Hartley's Lions XV
"Everyone’s wondering where Alun Wyn Jones is, and he’s the back-up to Mr. Maro Itoje."
You really have to hand it to Dylan Hartley and his commitment to the piece.
Often lambasted by Scottish, Welsh and Irish fans, during club and country engagements, former England captain Dylan Hartley has never been one to row with the tide.
Now retired, Hartley is tipping away in rugby punditry and is the latest brave soul to step up and name his Lions XV. Hartley never made a British & Irish tour, although he was selected for the 2013 squad until some verbal abuse of Wayne Barnes saw him receive a lengthy ban.
On The Offload podcast, Hartley named his starting XV for the Lions Test Series and went against the current grain by selecting six English players.
While few would have batted an eyelid at such a number, back in January, England endured a wretched Six Nations [fifth place finish] campaign, Saracens are slugging away in The Championship and the form of their club sides in the Champions Cup has been poor.
Hartley has only one Welsh forward in his starting pack, and says Alun Wyn Jones - tipped by many for Lions captaincy - would be on his bench, backing up Tadhg Beirne and Maro Itoje.
Beirne, Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong are the only Irish starters, while both Keith Earls and Simon Zebo would definitely making his touring squad. George North was originally selected at No.13 but Henry Slade [a Hartley back-up] comes in there after North suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
DYLAN HARTLEY'S LIONS XV
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Henry Slade (England)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)
10. Dan Biggar (Wales)
9. Gareth Davies (Wales)
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
2. Luke-Cowan Dickie (England)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
6. Tom Curry (England)
7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)
8. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Cian Healy and James Ryan are another couple of Irish players that would make Hartley's wider squad, and press for Test selection.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland will officially announce his squad on Thursday afternoon.