Darry's British and Irish Lions Starting XV


The British and Irish Lions squad to take on New Zealand was announced yesterday. Our two rugby scribes seem to disagree with Lions coach Warren Gatland when it comes to the composition of the starting XV for the first Test. Check out who Darry Worthington's would have fielded in the first Test


Fullback: Stuart Hogg
Probably the most naturally gifted rugby player plying his trade in Europe, Hogg has been nothing short of sensational for the ‘Scots’ over the past two years. The fleet-footed Melrose native’s ability to launch counter-attacks from deep inside his own half will be vital for the Lions in ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud.

Right Wing: Liam Williams
You need a hell of a lot of x-factor to get one over the All Blacks, which is why Liam Williams gets into my starting XV. The man has loads of pace and a some of the happiest feet in the game. While he's not the most powerfully built winger, he is still decent under the highball.

Outside Centre: Gary Ringrose
This is certainly a left-field call but I think Gary Ringrose could cause the All Black midfield loads of problems. He had a fantastic Six Nations campaign for the Irish and his partnership with Leinster teammate Robbie Henshaw has the hallmarks of a quality pairing.

Inside Centre: Robbie Henshaw
While some still think the Leinster man's best position is outside centre, I beg to differ. Yes, Henshaw is no Dick Muir or Jean de Villers but he does possess a slick pair of hands which allows him to put his fellow backs into space. He also runs a great crash ball which is something that will be needed against the All Blacks.

Left Wing: George North
The Welshman makes my side based on past performances against the All Blacks. His sheer bulk has caused problems for the New Zealanders in the past and that's likely to continue this June.

Fly-half: Jonathon Sexton
The fly-half berth is the most hotly contested of all the positions for the Lions with George Ford, Finn Russel, Paddy Jackson, Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell all capable of donning the number 10 jersey. None of these men would feature as my starting ten, however, as I think the man for the job is Jonathon Sexton. He's vastly experienced and is one of the most reliable goalkickers in European Rugby. The only concern I have with the Irish pivot is how long he will last on this tour as he has been plagued by injuries in recent years. 

Scrum-Half: Connor Murray
I'm not going to go into too much detail here as there is no doubt in my mind that Murray should be the starting nine. If you need convincing, go and check out the highlights of Ireland's win against the All Blacks in Chicago at the back end of last year.

Eigthman: Jamie Heaslip
This is the toughest decision of them all as there’s some real talent plying their trade in the number eight berth. After hours of thought, which involved the consumption of a six-pack of beer, I’ve opted for Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip over England’s Billy Vunipola. There really wasn’t much in it and either man is deserving of the jumper but I just think Vunipola could offer something off the bench in second half of the Lions’ fixtures that Heaslip just can’t. Heaslip is a more cerebral player,  which is something you really need to possess in your loose trio when you’re coming up against footballing geniuses such as Kieran Reed.

Blindside Flank: CJ Stander
Probably the first name on Gatland's team sheet, Stander has been nothing short of sensational for the past year and a half. He's a hardworking flanker, who knows his way to the try line as his Six Nations hat-trick against Italy attests to.

Openside Flank: Sean O’ Brien
I'm probably going to get a bit of stick for naming an all Irish back row but I just think the Lions will need a balanced loose trio on tour. O'Brien hasn't been as prolific as Stander but he has a similar work ethic and isn't afraid to stick his head in at ruck time. He's also a solid ball carrier.

Lock: Alun Wyn Jones (captain)
Like Shaun, I've gone for Jones as my captain. He's a veteran who's been on many a Lions Tour. He leads from the front which is what this Lions side will need in 'The Land of The Long White Cloud'.

Lock: Jonny Gray
Physical and unwavering in contact situations, Gray is exactly the type of player you need when facing the All Blacks. The mountain of a man will cause all sorts of problems at lineout time as well as in the loose. He had some of the highest tackle stats in the Six Nations and I suspect he'll top the tackles made charts for the Lions.

Tighthead Prop: Tadgh Furlong
Another Irishman whose stock has risen over the last year and a half is Tadgh Furlong. The heavyweight tighthead is a monster at scrum time. He also carries the ball brilliantly. 

Hooker: Rory Best
I've gone for Best here due to experience. He's probably not the best hooker in the British Isles at the minute but his composure and secure darts at lineout time make him my choice at hooker.

Loosehead Prop: Mako Vunipola
This man is going to be all over the highlights reels during this tour. While Mako is a great scrummager, it's his ball carrying and slick hands that get him into my side. He's also a solid tackler who gets around the park.