The Irish representatives that must start the Lions’ first Test

The wait is finally over and we now know the names of the 41 players who will be heading down to New Zealand for the British & Irish Lions this summer.

Following the announcement earlier, 11 Irishmen will be on the plane with Warren Gatland and his staff looking for the first series win over the All Blacks since 1971.

We’re extremely proud that the following Ireland players have been selected: Rory Best, CJ Stander, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jack McGrath, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton and Jared Payne.

Attention now turns to which players can earn a starting spot for the First Test at Eden Park in Auckland on June 24 and here’s our ‘musts’ for selection.

Jonathan Sexton

It is hard to over-play Sexton’s impact on the Irish side during the Six Nations; Ireland looked a completely different team with him at fly-half.

Sexton was the starting fly-half for the Lions’ successful series in 2013 and deserves his shot at the All Blacks with Owen Farrell at inside centre.

Farrell was impressive in that position during the Six Nations and will offer kicking support for Sexton who the All Blacks may look to target.

Dan Biggar offers good competition for the No. 10 jersey for that crucial first Test but on current form it’s got to be Sexton for us

Rory Best

Guinness Series, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 19/11/2016 Ireland vs New Zealand New Zealand’s Aaron Smith tackles Tadhg Furlong and Rory Best of Ireland Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
©INPHO/James Crombie

The experienced Ireland skipper, who led Ireland to victory over New Zealand last year, is the clear favourite to start at hooker ahead of England’s Jamie George and Wales’ Ken Owens.

Owens, unlike George, started every match of Wales’ Six Nations campaign but Rob Howley’s men had a disappointing tournament and eventually finished fifth with just two wins.

Best is arguably unlucky not to be captain and has experience of winning against the All Blacks while George was unable to earn a starting spot ahead of England skipper Dylan Hartley.

Conor Murray

Arguably one of the most competitive positions for a starting spot is at scrum-half, where any one of Murray, Ben Youngs or Rhys Webb could start, but we’ve backing the Munster player.

Like Youngs, Murray has the experience of a winning Lions Tour but is also has an incredibly strong relationship with our pick for fly-half Sexton.

Murray has better discipline than Webb and already has strong playing relationships with the trio of Irish back rowers in Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.


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