Lions XV that should start the First Test against South Africa 1 month ago

Lions XV that should start the First Test against South Africa

"Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position."

From one Lions XV debate to the next. Now that we know the squad, some changes are necessary.

Days like this should be one where the sense of relief is great. The news has been broken and you can get on with the task at hand.

For Warren Gatland and his coaches, you could sense the weight still on their shoulders as they fielded more questions on the players that did not make it, rather than those that did.

We all have players we would have preferred to have made the squad, but such is the case when there were over 70 players considered by the Lions coaches and 57 debated at their first get-together, last month.

Any so we have a 37-man squad announced, with lots of players to get excited about and still one that is short of names like Sexton, Davies, Sinckler, Ryan, Navidi, Underhill and Stander.

2021 British & Irish Lions tour captain Alun Wyn Jones. (Credit: INPHO)

Gatland, Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy debated those final calls over four hours, on Wednesday evening, along with Neil Jenkins and Robin McBryde.

Advertisement

The extra player, one suspects, was either Iain Henderson or Courtney Lawes. The coaches wanted an extra forward that could cover second- and back-row positions.

Now that we do have the final squad, we are looking ahead to July and selected the 23-man match-day squad that we feel would really put it up to the Springboks.

Robbie Henshaw shifts to outside centre, in place of Jonathan Davies, while Dan Biggar now starts at outhalf, instead of our first-choice - Johnny Sexton.

Elsewhere, we are going with a back-row similar to that selected by Scott Quinnell and Sean O'Brien, in recent weeks. Tadhg Beirne at blindside, Tom Curry at openside and Toby Faletau holding off Sam Simmonds to get the No.8 jersey.

There are four Irish starters and two more on the bench. England and Wales have eight players apiece in the match-day squad, with Stuart Hogg the sole Scot.

OUR LIONS XV

15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
12. Owen Farrell (England)
11. Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
10. Dan Biggar (Wales)
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

1. Wyn Jones (Wales)
2. Ken Owens (Wales)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
7. Tom Curry (England)
8. Toby Faletau (Wales)

REPLACEMENTS: Jamie George (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Andrew Porter (Ireland), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Sam Simmonds (England), Ali Price (Scotland), Elliot Daly (England), Liam Williams (Wales)