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Gatland's possible Lions squad

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/03/2017 By Nick Purewal

The British and Irish Lions will chase just a second-ever Test series win in New Zealand this summer.

Here, Press Association Sport examines head coach Warren Gatland's possible starting Test XV after another bruising Six Nations tournament.

15 Stuart Hogg: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny could be considered the safe option, but the Toulon star has generated no attacking rhythm in the Six Nations. Hogg is fallible in defence but his twinkle-toes ball-carrying could edge him into the Test line-up.

14 Elliot Daly: Nicknamed "briefcase" for arriving at his first Wasps' training session in school uniform, the Lions need his bag of tricks to down the All Blacks. From long-range penalties to express pace, fine fast feet and smart distribution, Daly pretty much has it all.

13 Jonathan Joseph: As England defence coach Paul Gustard put it in November: "Tries will win the next World Cup". The Lions tour will be no different. Forget the sometimes iffy defence here and let his jet heels loose.

12 Owen Farrell: The Lions backline must revolve around England's potent pivot. He will kick the goals and man the tiller more obdurately and more incisively than anyone else.

11 Liam Williams: Anthony Watson's susceptibility under the high ball as England bombed in Dublin could prove costly, with Wales' Williams offering a potent foil to the roving Elliot Daly.

10 Johnny Sexton: The great 'if' remains fitness: if Sexton is fit, then he will start at fly-half. If not, Gatland could pull Farrell into 10 or even opt for England's potent George Ford-Farrell inside-backs axis.

9 Conor Murray: Peerless accuracy from hand and boot, Munster's Murray must boss the Lions' backline to hand the tourists the best chance of Test series success.

1 Jack McGrath: England's Mako Vunipola could well be deployed as a barnstorming half-hour impact replacement, leaving Ireland's ever-reliable McGrath to hold down the fort for 50 minutes.

2 Jamie George: Coach Warren Gatland has never shied away from contentious selections, and overlooking Dylan Hartley could rankle with some. But England's second-choice hooker has offered consistent excellent for club and country.

3 Tadhg Furlong: Ireland's scrum cornerstone should nudge out Dan Cole to cement the Lions' set-piece.

4 Alun Wyn Jones: Gatland's chief rabble-rouser will bring the old-school fire and brimstone leadership that can still bond a Lions tour squad in double quick time.

5 Maro Itoje: A no-brainer selection despite second-row proving the most competitive area. Itoje's peerless northern hemisphere class ensures he must start in New Zealand.

6 CJ Stander: Ireland's bulldozing back-rower plays with a constant point to prove. The Springboks said he was too small to play flanker, so he upped sticks to Munster, learned the Limerick lingo, and takes out that latent anger on South African selectors on every unsuspecting defender he ploughs through in Ireland's green.

7 Sam Warburton (capt): The obvious choice as tour captain. The endless commercial requirements to sustain the Lions' monetary viability would only drive Alun Wyn Jones to distraction. Jones can provide the tub-thumping, but Warburton will be the exemplar.

8 Billy Vunipola: The globe's premier number eight, a true match-winner all of his own that can add a new dynamic to any team he graces. Not even a poor showing in Dublin can dent his chances.

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