Gatland's British Lions ready to roar - Early predictions for the starting 15

Manu Tuilagi

Rugby Union: The 2013 British Lions tour gets underway shortly, and Jamie Hosie is on hand to make an early prediction for the first starting 15.

On Tuesday last week the Lions selection speculation reached fever pitch as the official squad for the 2013 tour of Australia was finally announced.

Months of compiling fantasy teams and arguing in pubs and online were finally put to bed as head coach Warren Gatland and tour manager Andy Irvine revealed the 37 men they would be taking with them Down Under. 

There were some interesting selections, no doubt. The biggest ‘bolter’ is unquestionably Matt Stevens, who has not won an England cap since last year’s Six Nations, and has in fact retired from international rugby all together.

Next to him in the front row, Kiwi-born Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley makes the squad ahead of media and public favourite Rory Best, a man who many had tipped to start the test matches.

Injuries are a cruel part of any sportsman’s career, but for Tom Croft and Dan Lydiate having been blighted by them for the majority of this season has not hindered their selection.

The unfathomably unlucky Chris Robshaw is the man to miss out in their stead – this is the guy who has captained England to an epic victory over the All Blacks and the brink of the Six Nations this season. 

In the backs there are fewer surprises, with Irish scrum-half Conor Murray perhaps lucky to sneak it over the more versatile Greig Laidlaw and more explosive Danny Care.

No Jonny Wilkinson either, who apparently ruled himself out of the running to honour his commitments to Toulon and their quest for domestic silverware.

With only two out and out fly-halves in the squad, however, few would be surprised if Wilko flew out to join the tour as injury cover. Don’t be writing off any last minute drop-goals just yet.

All in all it looks a decent squad, and one that should be capable of beating the Aussies. The media Down Under have wasted no time in branding it a squad full of ‘slabs of meat’, accusing Gatland of picking a team that will simply try to physically intimidate the Australians.

In reality though, so what? It has been the weakest part of their game for a while, so why not try to exploit it? We are, after all, not blessed with players with the natural talent of Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale.

So what will the team that runs out for the first test look like? Tough to speculate this far in advance, but at least with only 37 players to play with now that’s exactly what we’ve done: 

  1. Cian Healy

  2. Richard Hibbard

  3. Adam Jones

  4. Alun Wyn Jones

  5. Paul O’Connell

  6. Tom Croft

  7. Sam Warburton (c)

  8. Toby Faletau

  9. Ben Youngs

  10. Johnny Sexton

  11. George North

  12. Manu Tuilagi

  13. Brian O’Driscoll

  14. Leigh Halfpenny

  15. Stuart Hogg

How would your first team of starters line-up? 

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