Warren Gatland has put his faith in 41 of Britain and Ireland’s best rugby union players to represent the Lions this summer and end the 46-year wait to beat the All Blacks.
Made up of 22 forwards and 19 backs, Gatland’s squad was announced by Lions tour manager John Spencer on Wednesday in west London, with Wales flanker Sam Warburton on hand to once again accept the role of captain after leading the side four years ago in 2013.
In true Gatland fashion, the head coach threw in a few curve balls with the inclusions of Wales back-row Ross Moriarty, Scotland wing Tommy Seymour, Ireland centre Jared Payne and England centre Jonathan Joseph, while the red herring of Jamie Roberts’ possible inclusion failed to materialise and England captain Dylan Hartley missed out on the Lions once again.
With his squad finalised, Gatland can start to turn his attentions towards the tour itself and, in particular, trying to conquer the world champion All Blacks, a side who have not been beaten by the Lions since the historic 1971 tour.
The squad will face six warm-up matches following their arrival in New Zealand before taking on Steve Hansen’s All Blacks in the first Test on 24 June, and after a final midweek game against the Hurricanes, the final two tests will take place to decide who will claim the three-Test series.
With an enlarged 41-man squad, Gatland has decided to take four more players on tour this time around as opposed to the 37 he took to Australia, though injury concerns over Wales pair Alun Wyn Jones and Warburton are partly due to the extra individuals named.
What it means though is that Gatland has plenty of options to select from, so we’ve compiled a depth chart that provides a look at how the different sides that Gatland can and will select can be formed.
Some players such as Ireland forward Iain Henderson and England half-back Owen Farrell will combe in particular use due to their versatility to play at Test level in more than one position, and Gatland will certainly tinker with how his side shapes up before the first Test gets underway in little over two months’ time.
1. Mako Vunipola, Jack McGrath, Joe Marler
2. Rory Best, Jamie George, Ken Owens
3. Tadhg Furlong, Dan Cole, Kyle Sinckler
4. Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes
5. Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes
6. CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson
7. Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, Justin Tipuric
8. Billy Vunipola, Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty
9. Conor Murray, Rhys Webb, Ben Youngs
10. Jonathan Sexton, Owen Farrell, Dan Biggar
11. Anthony Watson, Liam Williams, Elliot Daly
12. Owen Farrell, Ben Te’o, Jonathan Davies
13. Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Joseph, Jared Payne
14. George North, Jack Nowell, Tommy Seymour
15. Stuart Hogg, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams