2005 Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll has named the XV he believes capable of defeating South Africa when the eagerly awaited Test series versus the Springboks get underway this time next July. 

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O’Driscoll, the Irish midfielder who went on four Lions tours and was infamously dropped by Warren Gatland for the 2013 series decider against Australia, has opted for an England-dominated selection for a 2021 series that will begin in Johannesburg on July 24 next year. 

It’s a selection reflective of O’Driscoll’s liking for the England team under the baton of Eddie Jones – O’Driscoll had tipped them to win last year’s World Cup before the tournament started, a prediction that only fell short at the final hurdle when the Springboks beat the English at Yokohama. 

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Announcing his pick of the Off The Ball radio show in Ireland, O’Driscoll began his eight-strong England preference by choosing Anthony Watson and Jonny May on wings, Manu Tuilagi at centre and Owen Farrell at out-half. 

Upfront, he added four more English men, Billy Vunipola at No8, Sam Underhill at openside, Jamie George at hooker and finishing up with Maro Itoje at blindside rather at second row which is his regular England position and where he played in the 2017 drawn Lions Test series in New Zealand. 

Explaining his thinking on Itoje, O’Driscoll said: “The back row aside from Billy is very difficult. I’m going to go from a size aspect and it makes another decision easier. I’m going to go with Maro Itoje at six. That size will matter, particularly against South Africa who we have seen decimate teams physically.

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“You look at Pieter-Steph du Toit playing at six, you have got to match him. Itoje is someone who is capable of doing that.”

Switching to players from other countries he wants to feature in Gatland’s XV, O’Driscoll chose Jonathan Davies at No13, Tomos Williams at scrum-half and veteran Alun Wyn Jones at lock.   

Finishing out the team with two picks each from Ireland and Scotland, O’Driscoll reckoned Irish regulars Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan will feature in the tight five while his preferred Scots were Stuart Hogg at full-back and surprisingly Rory Sutherland at loosehead.     

Brian O’Driscoll’s Off The Ball Lions XV: Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Anthony Watson (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Jonny May (England); Owen Farrell (England), Tomos Williams (Wales); Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Jamie George (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), James Ryan (Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Maro Itoje (England), Sam Underhill (England), Billy Vunipola (England).

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