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British & Irish Lions Team of the Week

Apr 30, 2017

Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions face the All Blacks in eight weeks and we look at the form of players selected and those who could make the plane to New Zealand in the case of injury.

Out of the 41 players selected, 13 players didn’t play with their clubs over the weekend with injury ruling out the likes of Sam Warburton, Alun Wyn Jones, Conor Murray and Jared Payne. With that in mind, there were places up for grabs in our Lions team of the week.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked 16 points in Toulon’s victory at Bordeaux. Romain Perrocheau/Getty Images

BACKS

15 Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon)

Halfpenny has really come into his own as we near the end of the season. He is back to his reliable best at Toulon, kicking 16 point at Bordeaux Begles. Having proved against Australia four years ago that he can handle kicking under the pressure on a Lions tour, he might just have the kicking tee as the starting fullback spot.

14 Jack Nowell (Exeter)

Nowell has been in outstanding form for club and country as Exeter secured their seventh consecutive bonus point victory. He made an incredible 155 metres, beat nine defenders in attack and threw in a try assist. In defence he won two turnovers and will hope there is more to come as the Aviva Premiership semifinals near.

13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)

Four years on from starting that final test against Australia ahead of Brian O’Driscoll, Davies could well be the go-to man for Gatland. He’s doesn’t provide the defence splitting runs that Ireland’s Garry Ringrose does, but he does fit Gatland’s game plan. He had a solid performance over the weekend and he can now look forward to a PRO12 semifinal.

12 Ben Te’o (Worcester)

It has been an incredible 12 months for Te’o, going from joining Worcester and being called up to Eddie Jones’ England team to scoring his first international try against France and being named in the Lions travelling squad. He put in a great defensive effort for the Warriors against Newcastle, making 11 tackles, a line break in which he beat a number of defenders.

11 Liam Williams (Scarlets)

There are those who feel Williams could provide an x-factor for the Lions from fullback, but it is doubtful Gatland will use him at 15. Scarlets needed to win to secure a semifinal spot and Williams showed glimpses of his ability, grabbing a try and even winning a turnover as they defeated Connacht.

10 Dan Biggar (Ospreys)

With George Ford benched, Johnny Sexton missing out for Leinster, and Owen Farrell not at his best after his brilliant display against Munster last week, Dan Biggar showed he is up to the task if injury strikes. Gatland knows what he can do, and with Wales touring Samoa and Tonga, he will be close at hand should an injury replacement be needed.

9 Rhys Webb (Ospreys)

With Conor Murray battling for fitness, Gatland has to be looking to see who will fill his shoes in New Zealand. Webb played a key role against Ulster, looking to snipe at the breakdown at every opportunity. He also provided quick ball to the Ospreys backline and inched them towards a semifinal in the PRO12.

Taulupe Faletau has been in phenomenal form for Bath ahead of the Lions tour. Paul Harding/PA Images via Getty Images

FORWARDS

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

It wasn’t a vintage display by Saracens, but it was from Vunipola. He put in a massive defensive performance, winning a turnover, and being his usual nuisance at the breakdown against Bristol. When it comes to the Aviva Premiership semifinals and Champions Cup final, he should be at his best.

2 Jamie George (Saracens)

It wasn’t a coincidence that George’s introduction saw Sarries take complete control of the game against Bristol. George’s stock rises with every performance as he makes a case for selection in Gatland’s starting team.

3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)

Sinckler did his selection chances no harm as Harlequins brushed Wasps aside in a big victory. He was part of a dominant set piece which saw a 100% rate on their own lineout, and while one lost scrum from five was lost, he put in a solid performance. Dan Cole didn’t do too badly in Leicester Tigers’ win over Sale, while Tadhg Furlong didn’t play for Leinster against Glasgow.

4 Maro Itoje (Saracens)

Itoje was once again at the core of what Saracens did at the set piece, including a brilliant lineout steal. He put in 10 tackles, but will be disappointed with the one lineout that went astray on their own throw. Warren Gatland will be hoping his offload is a sign of things to come on the summer tour.

5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow)

Glasgow had a monstrous task ahead of them against Leinster in Dublin, and Gray wasn’t found wanting. He put in a incredible 21 tackles and should injury strike the Lions, Gray has to be in with a shout to get a call. With Glasgow not reaching the PRO12 playoffs however, he only has one more chance to impress, that coming against Edinburgh next week.

6 Taulupe Faletau (Bath)

There is a huge summer ahead of Faletau if his recent form is anything to go by. He’s grabbed every opportunity to prove his worth for a starting place in a Lions back row that isn’t lacking any quality. In the demolition of Gloucester he scored a hat-trick and added two turnovers.

7 Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

Van der Flier was in the thick of it as Leo Cullen gave most of his first team players a rest after the Champions Cup defeat to Clermont. He showed glimpses of the player he was which saw him brought into Joe Schmidt’s team. If he stays injury free, he will take some stopping for both province and Ireland in the years to come.

8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens)

His ball carrying against Bristol was something to behold and only fullback Alex Goode and centre Alex Lozowski made more yards than him. The way he beats defenders and looks to offload mirrors what New Zealand teams do weekly in Super Rugby. Three turnovers weren’t bad either.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19279282/british-irish-lions-team-week-face-all-blacks-new-zealand-based-weekend-aviva-premiership-pro12-games

British & Irish Lions Team of the Week

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