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British & Irish Lions Tour: Starting XV For First Test

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Sporting Ferret’s predicted British & Irish Lions Starting XV for the First Test against South Africa

 

British & Irish Lions Tour: Starting XV For First Test

Every rugby fan, pundit and analyst has attempted to predict the British & Irish Lions tour team that Warren Gatland will select for Saturday’s First Test in Cape Town. So now we have decided to take a look at how the squad has performed on tour and which players should be selected, highlighting which positions will be the most difficult to predict. Gatland recently admitted that selection is “…probably fluid in terms of 60 to 70 per cent” which reflects how competitive selection for the First Test currently is.

 

Lions Tour 2021 Team

Forwards

  1. Mako Vunipola (England)
  2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)
  3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
  4. Maro Itoje (England)
  5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt.) (Wales)
  6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
  7. Tom Curry (England)
  8. Sam Simmonds (England)

When South Africa defeated England in the World Cup final they dismantled the English scrum and physically dominated the entire pack. This is a group of forwards who will not take a step back and can compete with the physicality of the Springboks. Mako Vunipola offers a strong ball-carrying presence and is an equally capable defender. Luke Cowan-Dickie has excelled on this tour and has overtaken both his England teammate, Jamie George and Ken Owens. His gritty, relentless style of play won’t allow his opposite number a moment of respite and it should make for a great spectacle. Tadhg Furlong has long been recognised as one of, if not the, best tight-head in world rugby and he will relish his physical battle with the South African forwards.

Maro Itoje is widely acknowledged as one of the best second rows in the world. His match up with Eben Etzebeth during the South Africa ‘A’ game was as intense as everyone predicted and their tussle will continue at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. Itoje will be partnered with the Lions captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who has made a remarkable recovery from the dislocated shoulder that he suffered during the British & Irish Lions’ warm up game against Japan. Jones’ return and presence on the field will be a major lift to the entire team and he will unquestionably lead by example.

The back row is one of the most difficult selection dilemmas for Gatland. Tom Curry has shown on tour that he is the most abrasive, in your face, flanker in the squad. His physicality and willingness to sacrifice his body to secure turnovers is of undeniable value to the Lions. Tadhg Beirne offers a different skill set to Curry, as he has great tackle-busting abilities, coupled with admirable offloading skills. This, combined with his tireless work-rate in defence might just give him the nod over the unfortunate Hamish Watson. At Number 8 Gatland may well surprise us and pick Sam Simmonds over Taulupe Faletau. Simmonds has been given a lot of game time during this tour and he has grasped every opportunity. This back row would be extremely competitive, skilful and would prove a real handful for the Boks.

 

Backs

9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

10. Dan Biggar (Wales)

11. Josh Adams (Wales)

12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)

13. Elliot Daly (England)

14. Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Murray and Biggar are forming a dangerous partnership and have played now quite a few times together. Gatland will probably go for Murray over Scotland’s Ali Price, as he knows what to expect from the Irishman in high pressure situations. The pair also offer a varied set of kicking options, which is vital to defeating the Springboks.

The selection of the centres will also cause a heated discussion amongst the Lions’ coaches. Players like Chris Harris, Robbie Henshaw and Owen Farrell have all made their case for inclusion, but ultimately Gatland will go for a partnership that possess complimentary attributes. Bundee Aki is a powerful, direct runner, which is a must against any South African back line. Elliot Daly offers speed, elusive footwork, has a quality offloading game and is also another kicking option. Daly is one player who has played his way into test reckoning during the tour, with many pundits surprised by his initial inclusion on the tour.

The back three need handle the aerial bombardment that the Springboks will launch at them during the First Test. Not only will they need to make intelligent kicking decisions, but also offer a genuine counter attacking threat. These three players are exceptional, skilful and dangerous attacking options. Both Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe have demonstrated their lethal try-scoring abilities numerous times during the tour. Anthony Watson and Louis Rees-Zammit were also both in contention, but the outstanding form of Adams and van der Merwe give them the edge. Stuart Hogg’s selection over Liam Williams will also be one that causes discussion, but ultimately a fit Stuart Hogg offers more creativity and is more dangerous than Williams. These back three Lions possess a trio of in-form players that will make the South Africans think twice about kicking to them.

 

Replacements

16. Kyle Sinckler (England)

17. Jamie George (England)

18. Wyn Jones (Wales)

19. Iain Henderson (Ireland)

20. Courtney Lawes (England)

21. Hamish Watson (Scotland)

22. Ali Price

23. Owen Farrell

These forward replacements will stretch the field, with fit, fast ball-carriers, who will test the resolve of a tiring South African team. Sinckler and Jones have both shown that they have the ability to bust tackles and require extra attention around rucks and mauls. Lawes and Watson are both tremendously physical, abrasive players whose introduction to the game will ensure the level of intensity and quality is maintained. Farrell is a versatile replacement, who can offer cover options at both fly-half and in the centres. Elliot Daly can also cover as full-back or on either wing, of needed.

 

Lions Tour 2021 TV Coverage

All test matches will be broadcast on Sky Sports within the United Kingdom.

 

Lions Tour Fixtures

Test 1 – Saturday 24th July @ 17:00pm (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)

Test 2 – Saturday 31st July @ 17:00pm (FNB Stadium, Johannesburg)

Test 3 – Saturday 7th August @ 17:00pm (FNB Stadium, Johannesburg)

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘British & Irish Lions Tour: Starting XV For First Test.’ What do you think about our Lions team selection? Who would you have selected? Do you think the Lions or Springboks will be victorious in the upcoming test series? Let us know your thoughts!

 

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Drew is a lifelong sports fan from Bristol who currently lives and works in Hong Kong. He has a keen interest in football, rugby, cricket, F1 and NFL.

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