Tuesday 27 September 2016

Two Irish players feature in Will Greenwood's 2017 Lions test XV

Published 22/03/2016 | 15:02

Sky Sports pundit Will Greenwood has selected just two Irish players in his Lions test XV for the 2017 tour to New Zealand, but besides a few 50/50 calls you can't really argue with the World Cup winner's selection.

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The omission of Johnny Sexton is probably the most surprising decision with Greenwood opting for Wales' Dan Biggar in the hypothetical XV. Sexton was the only out-half to make the 12-man shortlist for Six Nations Player of the Tournament but Greenwood feels that the playmaker's constant battle to stay healthy benefits Biggar.

"Close to being fly-half of the World Cup – and that was with Dan Carter playing out of his skin," Greenwood said in the Daily Telegraph when talking about the Welsh ten.

"Continued his form in the Six Nations with great goalkicking, aerial control, ability to regather ball, and he is strong defensively and a fine distributor. Owen Farrell is desperately unlucky not to get a start in my team at 10 or 12, Johnny Sexton needs a run of fitness while George Ford and Finn Russell must also be in the frame."

The legendary centre also opted for a second row partnership of George Kruis and Alun Wyn Jones, which means Maro Itoje has to settle for just a place in the squad.

Overall, Greenwood chose five English, five Welsh, three Scots and two Irish.

Here is his team in full:

15. Stuart Hogg

14. George North

13. Jonathan Joseph

12. Jamie Roberts

11. Anthony Watson

10. Dan Biggar

9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath

2. Dylan Hartley

3. WP Nel

4. George Kruis

5. Alun Wyn Jones (C)

6. Taulupe Faletau

7. John Hardie

8. Billly Vunipola

 

If just two Irish players made the test team, it would be the lowest since the third test in South Africa in 1997. Contrast that with the bruising encounter with the Springboks in the 28-25 loss in the second test in 2009, where Ireland had seven test starters.

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