RUCK.co.uk editor-in-chief Steven Smith selects his starting XV if the British and Irish Lions were playing the All Blacks tomorrow.
Fullback: STUART HOGG (Scotland)
As Stuart Hogg was out of the limelight somewhat, it was up to others to show they can take the fullback’s jersey from him. Although there were good performances from Liam Williams, Jared Payne and Mike Brown; Leigh Halfpenny’s return to fitness for Toulon will probably be the Scotsman’s biggest threat for the position.
Wing: GEORGE NORTH (Wales)
Despite missing the later two tests against New Zealand, George North looked back to his powerful best in the opening game of the series. If the Saints man is fit, he is a must!
Centre: ROBBIE HENSHAW (Ireland)
Another who suffered injury this summer, but a player armed with massive pace, power and most importantly, soft hands.
Centre: OWEN FARRELL (England)
Wing: JACK NOWELL (England)
Fly-half: DAN BIGGAR (Wales)
Scrum-half: CONOR MURRAY (Ireland)
Conor Murray tackled himself to exhaustion against South Africa, and found the going tough at altitude in the second test. Nevertheless, his game management continues to have him ahead of his rivals. Wales playmaker Rhys Webb or England’s Ben Youngs are probably his main rivals.
Prop: JACK MCGRATH (Ireland)
This season has confirmed Jack McGrath’s position as the best loosehead in the northern hemisphere. A strong scrummager and an even better ball carrier.
Hooker: DYLAN HARTLEY (England)
Hooker Dylan Hartley would also be my Lions captain too. He has led from the front and his lineout throwing has been exceptional for England during their whitewash 3-0 victory against Australia down under.
James Haskell has enjoyed a phenomenal summer tour in Australia. His carries were massive, his work rate second to none, and his defence immense. Currently the form backrower in the northern hemisphere.
Flanker: SAM WARBURTON (Wales)
Sam Warburton remains the best openside option available to the Lions. The Welsh captain has the ability to mix it with the best and is now massively experienced player.
Number 8: BILLY VUNIPOLA (England)
Billy Vunipola may have had a quit tour by his standards, but his ability to burst over the gain line is second to known. However, Taulupe Faletau, who was one of their few bright sparks during their tour of New Zealand, could yet win the battle for the number eight jersey