Despite the viability of the British and Irish Lions tour being in serious jeopardy, it hasn’t stopped the endless production line of ‘Lions XV’ selections, and Sam Warburton’s latest effort has certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons.
The former tour skipper hasn’t included a single Scotland player in his selection, but he has found room for three Welshman, despite their national team misfortunes. There’s no room for Finn Russell, Hamish Watson, Stuart Hogg or Jamie Ritchie, who have all been tipped to feature in the tour to South Africa, should it go ahead.
There’s also no room for long-time Welsh colleagues Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Davies and, and maybe most surprisingly, Justin Tipuric. Tipuric continues to shine, even in the context of a badly misfiring Welsh side.
Warburton’s major ‘bolter’ is Johnny Williams, who is just two caps into his burgeoning Test career. Williams stood out in both his Autumn Nations Cup performances, the Somerset born centre impressing on both sides of the ball.
The tour is maybe a little too soon for Williams to force his way past the established inside centre order, but a strong Guinness Six Nations could further his case for inclusion in Warren Gatland’s plans.
Other than Williams, there are no other great ‘inclusion’ surprises in the selection, although he has named a number of injured players with Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong and fullback Liam Williams both making the cut despite being in process of recovering from injuries.
Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup winners England dominate Warburton’s selection, with a total ten across the fifteen and five in the forward pack.
Sam Warburton’s Lions Test XV :
15. Liam Williams
14. Anthony Watson
13. Henry Slade
12. Johnny Williams
11. Jonny May
10. Owen Farrell
9. Ben Youngs
1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Maro Itoje
5. James Ryan
6. Sam Underhill
7. Tom Curry
8. Toby Faletau
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