After three tests, it’s time to pick a combined side from the standouts of the Lions v All Blacks series. Let’s just say there’s not as many Kiwis in the team than you would’ve thought a month ago.
Fullback – Liam Williams
Although the Welshman had a shaky time under the high ball, his gliding run in the first test provided easily the highlight of the whole series. His inclusion is also helped by the fact that the All Blacks had a different player at the back in all three tests.
Right wing – Anthony Watson
He ate a chunk of Sonny Bill Williams’ shoulder in the second test, but did what was needed of him defensively against a constantly rotating All Black back three.
Centre – Jonathan Davies
Player of the series and rightfully so. He cut the Crusaders to bits, despite having to play within the confines of a kick-happy game plan. This set the tone for the rest of the tour, when it seemed like every time he got the ball no one wanted to have anything to do with tackling him.
Second five – Ngani Laumape
Hard call here, but for a guy to debut after 20 minutes as a result of a red card and have the game he did is hugely impressive. Everyone thought he’d be a straight bulldozer in the third test too, but he put in some sweet distribution work.
Left wing – Elliot Daly
Again, the All Blacks chopped and changed their back three so much that it’s hard not to go with the Englishman who started all three tests. Although he got burned by Rieko Ioane in the first test, his big boot proved crucial in the third with a monster penalty.
First five – Johnny Sexton/Owen Farrell
Yeah I’m kind of cheating here, but both men essentially played the same position at different stages of the game. The often fragile Sexton was earmarked for destruction pre tour, but came through each test mostly intact. Meanwhile, Farrell’s goalkicking was the cornerstone to the Lions’ success.
Halfback – Conor Murray
No question that the Irishman was going to play a huge role on the tour, and he didn’t disappoint. He terrorized wingers and fullbacks with accurate box kicking, as well as crossing for a sweet try in the second test.
Number 8 – Kieran Read
The All Black captain, coming back from a broken thumb, was inspirational. He flogged his body through every minute of all three tests, carrying it to the line with effect right up until the bizarre ending of the third.
Openside flanker – Sam Cane
Went about his violent ways with aplomb, flying into each breakdown knowing that Ardie Savea would inevitably come on to relieve him. Between them the All Blacks ‘A’ channel remained closed for all three tests.
Blindside flanker – Sam Warburton
Even though he couldn’t make the first test side, the skipper’s presence in the last two made a huge difference. Defensively astute and level headed leadership.
Lock – Sam Whitelock
Just shading his teammate Brodie Retallick for a spot in the second row, the veteran staked his claim with a prominent display in the lineouts. He also featured heavily in the third test, at one point gaining a crucial strip in an open field tackle.
Lock – Maro Itoje
The cult hero of the tour. Urged on by his own personal chant, he flung himself into everything. Before we get too carried away, he wasn’t perfect – giving away a fair few penalties and dropping the ball a couple of times. But his sheer enthusiasm and ability lifted the tourists.
Tighthead prop – Owen Franks
Anchored a dominant All Black scrum that dealt to the Lions pack in the first test. Also helped win a crucial scrum penalty right under the sticks in the third test that brought the All Blacks up to 15 points.
Hooker – Codie Taylor
So much pressure on the Crusader going into this. An injury to key man Dane Coles gave him a starting berth in all three tests, and he scored a try in the first. Jamie George is unlucky, but the fact remains that his lineout throwing let the Lions down when it counted.
Loosehead prop – Mako Vunipola
If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. The big man threw his weight around with distinct disregard for anyone’s wellbeing or reputation – yes, he got a yellow card, but the physical message it sent set the Lions up for a bruising end to the second test.