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The hugely exciting Lions XV Warren Gatland could pick, but probably won’t

Dan Biggar or Owen Farrell, Stuart Hogg versus Liam Williams, what happens with the Justin Tipuric or Tom Curry dynamic?

So many pundits have had their say on what Warren Gatland’s Lions XV should look like to take on South Africa this summer and opinions inevitably vary.

Here is a team with a difference that Gatland could, but almost certainly won’t, pick – one made up of dazzling players and which certainly would be hugely exciting to watch.

It goes against Gatland’s Warrenball approach and won’t be chosen for the Test matches when he’ll look for a more abrasive game plan to counter the Springboks’ power.

However, Gatland has picked these players in his tour party so clearly rates them highly. You never know, we might even see something resembling this line-up during one of the warm-up matches.

Whatever, it’s a side full of gifted individuals that would definitely have fans on the edge of their armchairs….

15: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Who better than to start in a team like this with Scotland’s brilliant captain and thrilling counter-runner? Fast, skilful and with attacking zeal, Hogg has X-factor in abundance – it’s between him and Liam Williams for the Test full-back spot.

14: Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)

Talking of the X-factor, the Welsh youngster is arguably the most exciting rugby player in Europe. Yes, we keep hearing about work required on his defence, but when it comes to sizzling speed and dynamic try-scoring there is no-one better around at the moment. Can he force his way into the Test side?



Louis Rees-Zammit is so exciting

13: Elliot Daly (England)

With George North and Jonathan Davies missing, centre is viewed by many as the weakest link in this otherwise star-studded Lions squad. Bundee Aki is likely to play in the Tests, but the pacy and inventive Daly has a more rounded game and could offer greater creativity.

12: Owen Farrell (England)

Gatland will almost certainly start with Robbie Henshaw to provide go-forward and Jamie Roberts style Warrenball. However, he did make the bold call to pick a Sexton-Farrell midfield axis in New Zealand. Could he deploy England’s captain in a similar playmaking role this time?

11: Liam Williams(Wales)

Imagine a back three of Liam, Rees-Zammit and Hogg. That IS something to get excited about. Throw the equally gifted Anthony Watson into the mix, too, plus Josh Adams, and the Springboks will be wary of any combination Gatland eventually decides upon.

10: Finn Russell (Scotland)

No player will divide opinion on tour more than Scotland’s mercurial 10. Dan Biggar, or Farrell, will be the conservative option for many, but Russell will have plenty of backers for the flair he could offer. Not least Gregor Townsend, his Scotland coach, who knows exactly what an asset Russell can be and who will doubtless fight his corner.

The Racing 92 man plays on the edge and thus makes errors, but can also weave match-winning spells. Worth a gamble?

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9: Gareth Davies (Wales)

The likelihood is Conor Murray will start the Test matches, but we know about Davies’ ability to make sudden breaks and score stunning solo tries. He will be in the mix.

1: Mako Vunipola (England)

Wyn Jones is perhaps a little more solid in the set-piece, Mako is incredibly mobile for a prop and really makes his mark with ball carrying, tackles and turnovers.

2: Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)

The number two jersey really is up for grabs. Jamie George and Ken Owens appear to be in pole position, but Cowan-Dickie has ousted the Sarries man from the England side, shines for Exeter and is in the form of his career.

3: Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)

There is only one man for this position anyway.

He’s a rock in the scrums and he can produce around the field, as well.

In the Six Nations contest against Scotland in March, there was even a surreal venture into the world of the sidestep, with the 6ft, 19st 2lb Ireland No. 3 unleashing two pieces of footwork that Phil Bennett circa 1973 might have signed off.

Maybe he’s the world’s best tighthead prop.

4: Maro Itoje (England)

Iain Henderson has his backers, Will Greenwood among them, but Itoje is everything you want from a modern-day lock. Wins lineouts, mobile, achieves turnovers, carries, always a nuisance to the opposition. As second-rows go, he is one of the more exciting.

5: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

The captain has to play, and deserves to. Enough said really.

6: Tom Curry (England)

The England blockbuster will play in the Tests, the only issue is whether it’s six or seven. For the purposes of this team, he is blindside to give extra mobility into a fast back-row. He always produces turnovers and his carrying stats are usually sky high.

7: Justin Tipuric (Wales)

Tipuric’s backers feel it almost defies belief that his place in the Test team is even questioned. But it is, with many believing Gatland will pick Curry at seven and Tadgh Beirne as a more physical six to counter the Springboks’ power.

New Zealand great Jerome Kaino just named Tipuric as one of the best back rowers in world rugby, but evidently not everyone sees it that way. He and Curry in tandem would be awesome, although Hamish Watson is pretty special too.

8: Sam Simmonds (England)

There’s only one Taulupe Faletau, but the Simmonds bandwagon is growing. Faletau has been there, seen it, done it and offers Gatland guarantees.

However, Simmonds is another who Kaino ranks among the very best in world rugby right at this minute. He has just broken the English Premiership try record for a season and the fast grounds in South Africa will suit his dynamic running.

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