Absorbing Six Nations throws up selection headaches in Gatland's Lions XV

Former Ireland centre Lynne Cantwell and The42′s Murray Kinsella picked their Lions XVs.

WARREN GATLAND WILL name his Lions squad to tour New Zealand on Wednesday 19 April in London.

With just a month until the Lions boss announces the names of those who will travel for a 10-game tour that culminates in a three-Test series against Steve Hansen’s All Blacks, the selection headaches are very real.

Warren Gatland Gatland was keeping a close eye on the Six Nations. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Six Nations was always likely to be the key auditioning chance for Lions candidates, although there are still three rounds of Pro12 and Premiership action, as well as the crucial Champions Cup quarter-finals, ahead for players to impress in.

It’s likely that Gatland and his coaching team of Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick, Rob Howley, Graham Rowntree and Neil Jenkins already have the buck of their squad picked, while a likely starting XV must also be formulating in their minds.

Picking 15 players to take on the All Blacks is no easy task, with good depth in most positions, but we asked former Ireland centre Lynne Cantwell to put together her Lions XV for Monday’s episode of The42 Rugby Show.

Below is Cantwell’s selection, with Irishmen Johnny Sexton, Rory Best, Tahdg Furlong, Conor Murray and CJ Stander making the cut.

Lynne's Lions

Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones captains the side, while England pair Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph form the midfield pairing, and Stander is joined by Sam Warburton and Billy Vunipola in the back row.

Elliot Daly gets the nod on the left wing in Cantwell’s side, with George North and Stuart Hogg completing the back three. Jones is partnered by Maro Itoje in the second row, with Mako Vunipola, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong forming the front row.

“When I got down to putting pen to paper, I realised how much incredible brawn the Lions have to select from, ” said Cantwell.

“Often people go to New Zealand and try to play like them, but I don’t think there’s anyone who can play like them, so I think the Lions would be right to go for those serious ball carriers.”

As for the choice of Jones as captain, Cantwell pointed to the Welshman’s emotional intelligence as potentially key to ensuring cohesion within the Lions squad.

“The dynamics change a lot on the Lions tour and because you’re bringing four nations into one squad, bringing the players together is going to be key. I think you need a captain who has the ability to recognise that and who’s going to appreciate everyone’s differences, and bring it into a Lions culture.

“Jones is a likeable fella and a damn hard worker, so I think he’ll set the tone.”

This writer was also tasked with selecting a Lions XV following last weekend’s final round of the Six Nations, and the starting pack was exactly the same as Cantwell’s.

Murray's Lions

Tommy Seymour’s strong aerial skills, defensive solidity and work rate – on top of his game-breaking abilities – see him push in on the right wing, while Liam Williams’ superb form for Wales gets him the nod on the left.

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Though Robbie Henshaw has been playing at inside centre effectively for Ireland, the notion of Gatland picking a more direct outside centre gives him a shot in the Lions’ 13 shirt, playing outside dual playmakers in Sexton and Farrell.

Mako Vunipola’s handling and decision-making skills edge him ahead of Jack McGrath at loosehead, while Sam Warburton’s robustness, breakdown brilliance and Lions experience see him narrowly sneak in ahead of Justin Tipuric.

Rhys Webb has been superb in the Six Nations, but Murray’s composure and defensive power are hard to ignore at scrum-half.

We want to hear what Lions XV you would pick.

Of course, there are months until Gatland’s side face the All Blacks in New Zealand, but with the Six Nations over and the squad announcement now just a month away, many will have their own XVs in mind.

Who’s in your Lions XV? Let us know in the comments section.

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Murray Kinsella

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