The Six Nations saw some fantastic rugby on offer, and with the Lions Tour to New Zealand on the horizon, Andrew Baxter picks his starting XV.
- Jack McGrath- McGrath has done well to remove the outstanding Cian Healy from the Ireland team, and there are few better loosehead props in world rugby right now.
- Rory Best– Good in the scrum, solid at the lineout and very experienced too. As Ireland skipper, he captained the side that beat New Zealand just a few months ago.
- Dan Cole– Cole’s been a mainstay in this impressive England side, so I think he’ll get the nod here. He was on the tour in 2013 too, and is an experienced head in the pack. Also looks like the most stereotypical English prop in history- short, bald and angry…
- Maro Itoje- I’ve gone for a very young second row here. It was only last year that Itoje burst onto the scene, and he has been outstanding for England. He’s also huge.
- Jonny Gray- Gray just edges out Alun Wyn Jones (who I think could be Lions captain on the tour…), in a young second row. Gray’s been consistently solid for Scotland, and his tackle statistics are incredible. Again, he is also huge.
- CJ Stander- Another back-rower that is too good to leave out, Stander’s career highlight has to be the hat-trick against Italy in this year’s Six Nations (becoming the first forward to achieve the feat). He’s a very good ball-carrier, and can shift to play Number 8 if needs be.
- Billy Vunipola- I’ve tried to fit in all three of the back-rowers I had in mind for this team, so Vunipola will play 7. Vunipola adds physicality to this team, and when he gets going, there are few tacklers in the world who can stop him.
- Talaupe Faletau- He just beats Jamie Heaslip to the Number 8 position for me. Faletau is destructive on his day, and already has a Lions cap to his name- he played in the last game of the 2013 Tour. A back three of Vunipola, Stander and Faletau should add power and weight to the pack.
9. Conor Murray- Murray is a fantastic scrum-half, and for me is the best in the Northern Hemisphere right now. Surely one of the easier picks in this XV.
10. Dan Biggar (just…)- All 4 nations could have a genuine claim to the number 10 spot. George Ford is a solid kicker, Finn Russell had a fantastic Six Nations and Jonny Sexton is one of the best in the world when on form. Despite this, I’ve picked Biggar as I feel he is marginally the best out of the lot, and would offer the Lions the best chance of winning the series/a game/a point/literally anything.
11. George North– on his day the Welshman is unstoppable. He has everything- pace, power, and an eye for the try-line. Injury problems could turn his tour south though.
12. Owen Farrell- A number of good potential options for the Lions here, but I think Warren Gatland will pick Farrell at number 12. The Englishman offers versatility as well as a good kicking boot, should the form of Dan Biggar suffer. Also his Dad’s on the coaching staff.
13. Jonathan Davies- Not the commentator.
14. Anthony Watson– Watson’s scored 13 tries in his 25 England appearances, a decent scoring record. He’s offers some vital physicality, as well as being able to play full-back too. Failing that, Warren Gatland should try and buy Julian Savea. He’s got an Irish grandmother, doesn’t he?…
15. Stuart Hogg (obviously)