By Craig Muncey
I have always been one to accept a challenge. So when the others at Ruck Rugby set me a challenge of selecting a greatest British and Irish Lions playing squad of all-time. I quickly accepted.
I then started thinking through all of those players who have represented this great establishment. I realised that I might well have been a bit too hasty in my acceptance. However, I have made my selections and I am ready to take the abuse!
Just to give you some caveats for my selections. The squad is based on the players selected performances across all games, either domestically or internationally, not only based on their performances for the Lions. Also, picking players across generations in identical positions on a rugby field is pretty much impossible. The selections are based on players on their achievements, and whether their core skillsets would still be as strong today. Also, those players what is their playing reputations within their peers.
The squad size I have selected is 37 players (which on average of recent tours is around that number). The destination I have chosen for this fictional tour is the next destination for the British and Irish Lions, South Africa.
Back Three (6)
Looking back in these critical positions there is much talent (I common theme throughout all selections), so to narrow it down is very difficult. But the players I have selected are:
JPR Williams, Gavin Hastings, Gerald Davies, Tony O’Reilly, Jason Robinson and Andy Irvine.
These selections give you sufficient cover at full-back with four players in Williams, Hastings, Robinson and Irvine all played internationally at 15. In terms of try threats, then Davies, O’Reilly, Robinson and Irvine gives you that as well from the wings and also you have some good kicking options there.
I am looking for partnerships and also players who can give you a physical edge to be able to carry the ball. Also footballers who can spot opportunities in defensive lines. My choices are:
Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Davies, Bleddyn Williams, Mike Gibson and Will Greenwood
These selections give me three centres in O’Driscoll, Davies and Williams who are more comfortable in the outside-centre position but can be adaptable. Still. with Gibson, I have a football option at inside-centre. Greenwood was a fabulous centre, who can play at 12 or 13 comfortably, great hands and always a try threat.
This position has arguably given me the biggest selection headache. So many great tens for the Lions. If JPR is to be my test full-back which he would start, then I need a ten who is a consistent place kicker or look at other options. With that in mind, have selected the following:
Barry John, Jonny Wilkinson and Jackie Kyle
John and Kyle were just magicians in their time on a rugby field. Both were competent goal kickers but could be inconsistent. My safety net is the selection of Wilkinson. A prolific goal kicker, and also can slot in if required, at inside-centre. A nice option to have.