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British & Irish Lions Team of the Week

Mon, Apr 24, 2017, Posted by   print

2007 World Cup

7:28 AM GMT

With Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions squad confirmed, ESPN looks at the form of the players he’s picked — and with the inevitability of injuries — who could still make the plane to New Zealand.

PRO12 and Aviva Premiership had an off-week, so European competition took centre stage.

If there was any doubt over the string of Saracens forwards picked, their defensive masterclass against Munster has vindicated Gatland.

And even in defeat, Munster’s Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander showed why they will make the trip south.

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose breaks to score a try against ASM Clermont Auvergne. David Rogers/Getty Images

BACKS

15 Alex Goode (Saracens)

With his consistency for Saracens, playing at the top of European club rugby for a number of seasons, his limited exposure at international level is somewhat puzzling. His attacking threat could provide something off the bench for the Lions. A European Cup and Aviva Premiership double might put him back in contention in the case of injury.

14 David Strettle (Clermont)

The Champions Cup provides the forgotten man of English rugby, Strettle, with his only chance to change Gatland’s mind if injury rules out any of the current Lions selected wingers. He was explosive early on for Clermont as they built a platform that saw Leinster chasing throughout. Unfortunately, he won’t be in Gatland’s mind, but a Top 14 and Champions Cup double wouldn’t be a bad end to his year.

13 Garry Ringrose (Leinster)

More than anything, perhaps the weekend’s rugby showed what Gatland is missing. One name. Garry Ringrose. He provides an x-factor. His try, out of nothing against Clermont, showed the spark which needs to shine in New Zealand. He led Leinster in carries and metres made and his ability to beat defenders and make breaks surely means he is first in line if injury strikes.

12 Brad Barritt (Saracens)

Since the last time he was capped at international level with England, in defeats to Wales and Australia, Barritt captained Saracens to an Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup double. His quality this year has kept the possibility of back-to-back titles in both competitions. He was once again at his best as Sarries defeated Munster.

11 Simon Zebo (Munster)

He looked good under the high ball, his kick chase put Munster on the front foot on a number of occasions but his lack of penetration showed that Gatland made the right choice to leave him behind. After his Champions Cup exit, doubtful whether or not he’ll have another chance to showcase his talents.

10 Owen Farrell (Saracens)

Another area where Gatland looks to be vindicated after George Ford’s last minute penalty miss against Stade Francais. Farrell and Sexton were key for Saracens and Leinster, but having marshaled Saracens back to the European Cup final, surely it is Farrell’s starting jersey to lose at this stage.

9 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)

With doubt still lingering over Conor Murray, and a lack of match fitness impacting Greig Laidlaw, Wigglesworth might have an outside chance at selection. Another who could benefit from a successful end to Saracens’ year.

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola breaks during the European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Munster. David Rogers/Getty Images

FORWARDS

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

When the moment was greatest, when Saracens’ backs seemed unable to hold onto possession close to the Munster line, Mako Vunipola got the score to give Mark McCall the breathing space with the game in the balance. He and Billy Vunipola were busy double tackling any threat CJ Stander or Peter O’Mahony posed. A player the Lions can’t do without.

2 Richard Hibbard (Gloucester)

Hibbard put in a good performance for Gloucester and if injury puts and end to a traveling hooker, Hibbard could do slot right in. Gatland knows what he can do and will have no doubt that he still has a lot to offer.

3 Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)

The Irish front row didn’t have the influence he normally has as a slow start had Leinster on the back foot from the off. impeccable discipline, huge tackle count and work rate around the breakdown was a reason why Leinster were able to fight back to within three points. Gatland won’t be too disappointed that he, and the rest of the Leinster contingent in his squad have one less game due to their exit.

4 Maro Itoje (Saracens)

Another huge defence shift put in by Itoje. There doesn’t seem to be any stopping Itoje as his rise and maturity continue at the tender age of 22. With the brutes awaiting the Lions in the second row, Itoje is putting his hand up for one of the best in the world. A test against the world’s best will show how good he is and uncover any potential weaknesses.

5 George Kruis (Saracens)

There wasn’t much that went wrong for Kruis, leading Saracens in the tackle count and will only improve the more game time he gets. A solid option at the lineout as well, and his partnership with Itoje will be crucial in the latter stages of the Aviva Premiership and the Champions Cup final.

6 Ross Moriarty (Gloucester)

The Welshman was instrumental in ending La Rochelle’s winning run at home and helping Bath reach the Challenge Cup final. His inclusion was deemed a surprise but the ability he has shown this year should really have softened any surprise.

7 Dan Leavy (Leinster)

In the absence of Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip in the backrow, Leavy needed to have a big game and he didn’t disappoint. His try that was ruled out could have been the turning point for Leinster, but it was his initial holding of Aurélien Rougerie that opened up the gap for Fergus McFadden to exploit. With Leinster’s abundance of backrow talent, wouldn’t be a surprise to see some foreign clubs grab what is a great talent.

8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens)

The leader in carries and metres made for Sarries in Dublin. Turnovers, some big hits, beating defenders, offloads and a menace at the breakdown and set piece, it seems like he has it all. Munster didn’t have an answer to his threat and defensive strength. Perhaps the All Blacks can analyse the game against Ireland to see how to nullify his threat. Perhaps it was merely an off-day.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19226019/british-irish-lions-team-week

British & Irish Lions Team of the Week

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