All 22 players that are nailed-on for the British & Irish Lions squad 2 weeks ago

All 22 players that are nailed-on for the British & Irish Lions squad

Five from Ireland and just the two Scots.

Next Thursday, British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will name his touring squad to South Africa and, mark our words, all hell will break loose.

Given that the 2020 and 2021 Six Nations tournaments wrapped up within five months of each other, and that only one British or Irish side [Leinster] made the last four of the Champions Cup, this is the most open selection in years.

All those English certainties from December - when they won the Autumn Nations Cup - are now fretting. A disastrous Six Nations title defence saw them lose to Scotland, Wales and Ireland and there are now doubts over whether many of their top players will make the final cut.

Wales will be hoping to have the biggest slice of the squad pie, even if they let a golden Grand Slam chance slip through their fingers. Ireland and Scotland both finished on a high to give fans of both nations hope for decent representation.

Sam Warburton, who captained the Lions in 2013 and 2017, gave us his certainties to start the First Test against the Springboks, in July. He commented:

"There are six bankers to start a Test – Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg."

On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 49:30 below], Warburton gave his thoughts on Lions back-row selections and the possibility of adding Paul O'Connell to the coaching ticket.

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When it comes to bankers for that full squad - announced by Gatland next Thursday afternoon - we have come up with 22 names. This is when one has to be very harsh. If there are doubts, they have been left out.

As you will note, hooker and scrum-half are sparsely populated units. To us, only Ken Owens (Wales) and Conor Murray (Ireland) can rest easy in the days leading up to the announcement. We did have George North included but his knee injury rules him out for the rest of the season - meaning Garry Ringrose is now a certainty, in our eyes.

Even though some are selecting him as a Test No.10, there are enough question marks over whether Gatland would go for someone like Finn Russell to leave him out of our list of nailed-on players.

So there you have it (below) - nine from Wales, six from Ireland, five from England and two representatives from Scotland.

NAILED-ON PLAYERS FOR LIONS SQUAD

PROPS

Wyn Jones (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England)

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HOOKERS

Ken Owens (Wales)

SECOND ROW

Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

BACK ROW

Tom Curry (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Toby Faletau (Wales)

SCRUM-HALVES

Conor Murray (Ireland)

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OUT-HALVES

Johnny Sexton (Ireland), Dan Biggar (Wales)

CENTRES

Jonathan Davies (Wales), Garry Ringrose (Ireland), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England)

BACK THREE

Liam Williams (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Josh Adams (Wales)