With seven games played and the first of three severely tough examinations out of the way, we saw fit to go through each of the 22 forwards in coach Gatland’s original Lions 41-man squad and rate how each have done on tour to date, school report style!

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The old adage in rugby goes: forwards win rugby games, backs decide by how much. Never has that particular phrase been more in evidence than in the Lions’ first Test defeat to the All Blacks.

Rieko Ioane may have stolen the headlines with two tries in just his third Test cap, but the win had all its origins at the breakdown, where an intensely physical New Zealand pack pulverised Warren Gatland’s men.

Talk around the respective packs of the Lions and the All Blacks seemed to intensify as we got nearer to the Eden Park clash, with many pointing to it as a possible area of strength for the tourists.

That view was made a mockery of, as led by the outstanding Kieran Read, simply the best player on the pitch last week, the likes of Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane smashed into anything and everything in red.

And ably assisted to a degree by the refereeing of Jaco Peyper, who lets a lot go in the physical stakes, they battered the Lions into submission and sealed the result as a consequence.

Each player gets a Tour Grade, with the 15 that started the first Test also receiving a secondary Test Grade. Enjoy…

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Name: Mako Vunipola

Position: Loosehead prop

Report: In Gatland’s good books after a string of strong performances, Vunipola was the unanimous choice to start the first Test and keeps his place for the second. Though behind Joe Marler for England during the Six Nations after a knee injury, Vunipola enjoyed a good finish to the season with European champions Saracens and provides exceptional hands for a prop. Has also been part of a solid scrum alongside classmate Tadgh Furlong which had the upper hand in games against the Crusaders and Moari All Blacks. Failed to stand out in the first Test and while his tour report card reads well, he has some catching up to do when it matters.

Tour Grade: A

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Test Grade: C

Name: Jack McGrath

Position: Loosehead prop

Report: Though he came into camp penciled in as most people’s premium choice in his specialist subject of loosehead prop, McGrath has slipped behind classmate Vunipola. Still regarded as a strong member of the group, McGrath provides outstanding work-rate and scrummaging ability when introduced from the bench. Came onto the pitch in Eden Park to try and help an already battered pack. Will hope for a better situation in Wellington.

Tour Grade: B

Name: Joe Marler

Position: Loosehead prop

Report: Marler came into camp with a reputation for being a bit of a trouble maker on the pitch, a loose cannon, and already behind classmates Vunipola and McGrath in the opinions of most. So far on tour, he hasn’t stood out and blotted his copy book badly with a ridiculous no-arms tackle against the Chiefs. Firmly out of the Test equation as things stand.

Tour Grade: C-

Name: Jamie George

Position: Hooker

Report: One of the weakest areas of the current group is hooker, and George came into camp in a wide-open race to be top of his particular field against Ireland skipper Rory Best and Wales’ Ken Owens. While he hasn’t shown all of his capabilities- we haven’t see many rampaging runs and carries- he has been solid in the set-piece at scrum time and, crucially, in the lineout. Has forged a strong front row relationship with Sarries teammate Vunipola and Tadgh Furlong. Again though, couldn’t come to the fore in his first exam.

Tour Grade: B+

Test Grade: C

Name: Ken Owens

Position: Hooker

Report: After a strong Six Nations, Scarlet Owens came into camp aware the race for hooker was wide open. Hasn’t really shined on tour to date but still made the 23-man squad for the first Test. Came on and his first involvement was to have his throw stolen by Whitelock. Gatland has kept faith with him on the bench for the second clash.

Tour Grade: B

Name: Rory Best

Position: Hooker

Report: Came into camp with super pedigree and a huge deal of experience, but as was the case four years ago in 2013, things just haven’t fallen for him. A couple of missed and crooked throws at lineout time and one major one in particular in the dying stages of a game against the Blues (though probably not his fault if closely watched), have cast him in a negative light. Has led well though, been strong at the breakdown and scrummaged extremely strongly against the Chiefs. Gassed out of it for 80 minutes against the Hurricanes on Tuesday due to Gatland’s refusal to use any of the ‘Geography Six’ he called up. As such Best is still out of the Test equation.

Tour Grade: C

Name: Tadgh Furlong

Position: Tighthead prop

Report: This time last year he was barely involved against the Springboks on tour with Ireland. Now he is central to the Lions. A magnificent November against Saturday’s opposition, New Zealand, backed up by an equally impressive Six Nations meant that though he was late to the party, big things were expected. Phenomenal work rate for a prop, rock solid scrum, and underrated hands. One of the first names on the teamsheet but for the first time since his name has been in lights, he squeaked a bit scrum-wise in the first Test. Needs to show up better in the tight and loose.

Tour Grade: A

Test Grade: B

Name: Kyle Sinckler

Position: Tighthead prop

Report: A surprise choice for camp, Sinckler was one of the early eye-catchers with seriously deceptive pace for a tighthead and great hands. His showings have been such that he has moved above compatriot Dan Cole in the pecking order. For what was expected though, a brilliant tour so far.

Tour Grade: A

Name: Dan Cole

Position: Tighthead prop

Report: Came into camp with Lions experience from four years ago and successive Six Nations titles to his CV. Lacks the mobility and hands of Furlong or Sinckler, Cole’s bread and butter is the scrum. And when Angus Gardner repeatedly penalised him in that area against the Highlanders, his Test chances eroded. Could yet find himself back in the Test frame depending on how Sinckler fares. Like Best, was forced to play 80 minutes on Tuesday, which for a tighthead in todays came, is just outrageous.

Tour Grade: C

Name: Alun-Wyn Jones

Position: Second-row

Report: In terms of pedigree and experience, there doesn’t come much better than Jones. Two previous Lions tours and appearances in each of the last six Tests. The combination of Sarries and England pair George Kruis and Maro Itoje threatened to force him out of the first Test but Gatland picked him. His own performance in that game seemed surely to have cost him for the second, but his international boss has once more shown faith. Perhaps fortunate to start the first, he’s the luckiest boy in the squad for the second. Needs a monumental showing after a largely average tour to date and horrendous first Test.

Tour Grade: C

Test Grade: D

Name: George Kruis

Position: Second-row

Report: Having missed the majority of the season and entire Six Nations window through injury, there was real concern Kruis would miss the tour. Once he made it though, he thrived under forwards coach Steve Borthwick, who he is used to from the England set-up. Hugely physical, hardworking and a lineout specialist, his Test place was never in doubt, which is saying something when you look at the competition he had. Along with Jones though, he was the worst player on the pitch in Auckland, and unlike his second-row colleague has been ruthlessly cut as such. His performance drop was a huge shock after a superb tour to date.

Tour Grade: A

Test Grade: D

Name: Maro Itoje

Position: Second-row

Report: The youngest member of the class, Itoje joined camp off the back of two superlative seasons with Saracens and England. On tour, he has displayed his power, pace, hands, work-rate and passion. Cheap penalties need to be cut out of his game, but was mightily unlucky not to start the first Test. Proved the wrong call by Gatland and is in from the start for the second.

Tour Grade: A

Name: Iain Henderson

Position: Second-row

Report: What a mixed tour Henderson has had. Probably the outsider of the five locks in the class to make the Test set-up, he started with an extremely poor showing against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. But he has improved with each performance, so much so that after his display against the Highlanders and impact off the bench against the Chiefs, he was considered by some to be unlucky not to be involved in the 23 for the first Test. After his bullish display against the Hurricanes, most predicted he would be entrusted to provide explosive bench cover for the second Test. Gatland hasn’t seen it that way and he is missing again.

Tour Grade: B

Name: Courtney Lawes

Position: Second-row

Report: A bit like classmate Henderson, Lawes struggled somewhat at the beginning of the tour, failing to impose himself in his start against the Blues. Suffered a sickening head knock against the Highlanders, but came back with a vengeance against the Chiefs where he was utterly superb and one of the best players on the pitch. Another very unlucky not to be involved in the first Test, he has forced his way into the 23 for the second after another physically dominant display against the Hurricanes, something the Lions badly need.

Tour Grade: B+

Name: Peter O’Mahony

Position: Flanker

Report: Well, well, well. From the Ireland bench in March, to Lions Test skipper against the All Blacks in June. Incredible. And he deserved it. Outstanding against a fully-loaded Crusaders, he excelled at lineout time and the breakdown. He led brilliantly against the Maori All Blacks, as the Munster skipper can. Hands down the best back-row lineout forward in the world. His spring is incomprehensible. Kept a tour skipper out of the starting Test team for the first time since 1930, and with Jones having also started, his leadership skills must have shone through to get the captaincy. A week on and he’ll be in the stand in a suit and tie. He was the go-to man at the lineout against the All Blacks until his replacing after picking up a shoulder knock, producing a trademark steal to go with numerous clean balls. The score was 13-8 when he went off. It’s a funny old game.

Tour Grade: A+

Test Grade: B

Name: Sean O’Brien

Position: Flanker

Report: When fit, there’s few better than O’Brien. A wrecking ball of muscle, a machine with ball in hand. Strong at the breakdown and pace to burn. Gatland called his displays on tour ahead of the first Test ‘outstanding’. Like international colleague O’Mahony, he kept a tour skipper out of the starting team for the first time in 87 years. Finished off one of the greatest Lions scores of all time, and while he didn’t perform badly, needs to impact the breakdown more in Wellington.

Tour Grade: A

Test Grade: B

Name: Taulupe Faletau

Position: No 8

Report: On form, a student who just oozes class on the pitch. On tour, he forged a lovely balance alongside O’Mahony and O’Brien at the back of the class. Made former All Black Zinzan Brooke well and truly eat his words about him. If you haven’t seen it yet, find the clip of Brooke backtracking, never has a man stuttered and stumbled so much. Faletau is fantastic off restarts, always makes ground, provides another lineout option, and is one of the silkiest back-rows around. Was an absolute certainty to start the first and remains in team for the second. Like O’Brien, needs to have a bigger say on Saturday.

Tour Grade: A+

Test Grade: B

Name: Sam Warburton

Positon: Flanker

Report: Tour skipper, he will have been bitterly disappointed to miss out on Test selection. A knee injury before the series and ankle knock during curtailed his opportunities to show what he can do. In his two starts to date he has gone missing for large parts of the games. A clever try against the Highlanders was not enough to mask a decidedly absent performance. Made the bench for the first Test and impressed Gatland after his introduction enough to earn a starting place for the second. Like Jones, he needs a big one.

Tour Grade: B-

Name: CJ Stander

Position: No 8/flanker

Report: Among those tipped to start in the Tests before the tour began, Stander just hasn’t been able to force his way into the reckoning. Still looked to be carrying a knock on his ankle at the beginning of the tour and so appeared to be playing with the proverbial handbrake on a bit. His displays have largely been strong though and after reaching somewhere near his peak against the Chiefs, he was unlucky not to be the bench impact for the first Test. Another 80-minute shift against the Hurricanes has seen him promoted to the 23 for Wellington. All will be hoping he has enough in the tank to cause damage.

Tour Grade: B

Name: Justin Tipuric

Position: Flanker

Report: Like classmate Stander in some respects, Tipuric has failed thus far to properly impose himself in the games he has had to date. An openside flanker with the pace of a centre and outstanding vision when at the top of his game, he proved too good to leave out of the Wales team during the Six Nations as Warburton swapped to blindside. The impact he can provide make it likely we will see him off the bench in Test three.

Tour Grade: B-

Name: James Haskell

Position: Flanker

Report: A late call-up to the class after Billy Vunipola’s unfortunate injury withdrawal, Haskell was always on the backfoot with regards to a Test place. A fine mid-week player with great energy and strength, but won’t challenge for the Test team unless there is an injury crisis.

Tour Grade: C

Name: Ross Moriarty

Positon: Flanker/No 8

Report: A back injury meant Moriarty had to pull out of the tour, which was a great shame as he was one of only three players, alongside classmates Faletau and Sinckler to come out of the very first game on tour against the Provincial Barbarians with some credit. Had he stayed fit, he could have made a push for the Test squad with his brute strength and pace the perfect amalgamation to cause destruction, but that sadly won’t happen now. This won’t be the last we see of him on the highest stage.

Tour Grade: B

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