Dublin , Ireland - 18 March 2017; British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland in attendance during the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The British & Irish Lions 37-man squad announcement has reached its final stages. The excitement of the naming of 37 tourist who will represent the British Lions in New Zealand is almost unmatched. The official squad will be announced April 19th ahead of the tour which will happen June 3rd –July 8th.

New Zealand awaits Lions Tourist
There are few days met with greater excitement by rugby supporters on these Isles than the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad on Wednesday, April 19th. Predictions are aplenty from spectators, journalists and pundits, each having their own opinion as to who should be given the honour of pulling on the famous red jersey. Once the names have been revealed, the tour captain will be announced. The day itself will bring much coverage through social media.

The British and Irish Lions squad

While 37 players from the home nations will get the initial call-up, those on the cusp of selection may still make the reserve list. Competition for places in the squad is incredibly fierce and this year is no different. While there will be some who have nailed their place, others will continue to wait anxiously for the announcement from Lions head coach Warren Gatland.

Who’s going on British Lions 2017 Tour?

My Top 5 Players (with outside chance to make that plane)

1/ Kyle Sinckler ( Prop)
Playing his rugby with Harlequins, Sinckler is a new age prop who is outstanding in the loose with great handling skills, which has made him one of England’s impact subs during recent six Nations. His work rate and ability to make breaking runs together with his offload make him an ideal candidate to become a Lion for first time.

2/ George Kruis
Kruis is a remarkabl player who has been one of the leading locks for Saracens
and England. What holds him back at present is lack of game time due to injury—he has not played in recent Six Nations and hopes to return to action next weekend. Can he get game time under his belt before selection and will it be enough?

3/ Ben Te’o (Centre)
A great addition to England squad this season, he is making his international starting debut on February 26th 2017 against Italy. He is one those big ball-carrying centres which we all know Gatland loves. He runs great lines and can cut a defence open. If Farrell was to move FH then Te’o compliments perfectly at inside centre. Player for the future and, whilst may not make Lions XV, he would be valuable part of mid-week team.

4/ Taulupa Faletau
Tongan born and a Welsh International playing his rugby outside Wales with Bath, this number 8’s performance last weekend for Bath showed what he can bring to the squad. He links well with fellow Welsh back row forwards, though Billy Vunipola surely gets the XV starting spot. Both have power and ball skills to take game to the All Blacks. He has the versatility to play at Flanker which is a positive asset, as is going to be a key area.

5/Christian Wade
Blessed with pace and great footwork, he can beat most defenders coupled with his power and strength in the tackle which make him a formidable attacking option. Many have spoken over his lack of defence but he has worked hard on this and I would rather have him there with his strike rate on tries that he produces for his club, Wasps. He brings excitement to the game, and when he has the ball, things happen. The game needs people like Christian Wade, a natural dynamic talent and not on everyone’s thoughts as a tourist though could be one of the shock selections.

“THE TOUGHEST OF CALLS”

There will be some surprise omissions and toughest of calls. For me, Finn Russell and Leigh Halfpenny could be two who may not make the cut. Russell may be surplus to requirements and would be a tough call as he has been a major force for Scotland this season, Regardless, I would still go with Ford, Sexton and Farrell if required at FH. Halfpenny is not the player he was last season and Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly can fill in at Full Back, with Daly giving Lions a long range kick option. One of the biggest positives for Halfpenny though is his goal kicking and this still may gain him a place on the plane, though he misses out of my 37 Lions Squad.

In the forwards, Ken Owens is another player who may well will lose out, as experience with Rory Best will stand Lions in good stead. I would defiantly take Dylan Hartley as starting Hooker, with back up through Jamie George and Rory Best – there is no room in my squad for Jamie Heaslip either, as he loses out to Ross Moriarty.

Dan Biggar misses out in my squad selection. I would like to find place for Peter O’Mahony too, and it’s one of the hardest decisions.

“My Full 37 Lions Squad Selection”
Full Backs –Stuart Hogg (Scotland) Rob Kearney (Ireland)

Wing – Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson (both England) George North, Liam Williams (bothWales) Christain Wade (England) Note: Watson, Daly and Williams can play FB both versatile

Centre- Owen Farrell ,Jonathan Joseph Ben Te’o (all England) Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)

Fly Half – Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) George Ford (England) Note – Farrell can slot in at FH

Scrum Half – Connor Murray (Ireland) Ben Youngs (England) Rhys Webb (Wales)

Tight Head Prop- Dan Cole, Kyle Sinckler (both England) Tadtig Furlong (Ireland)

Hooker – Jamie George, Dylan Hartley (Both England) Rory Best (Ireland)

Loose Head Prop- Joe Marler , Mako Vunipola (both England) Jake McGrath (Ireland)

Second Row – Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury (all England)

Back Row – Taulupi Faletau Justin Tipuric Sam Warburton (all Wales) Sean O’Brien CJ Stander (Both Ireland) Billy Vunpola ( England) Ross Moriarty (Wales).

TOUR CAPTAIN – SAM WARBURTON

One thing is for sure British and Irish Lions has to remain in the Rugby Calendar and New Zealand awaits the British and Irish Lions 2017

Fixtures
03 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, Whangarei
07 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs Blues, Auckland
10 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs Crusaders, Christchurch
13 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs Highlanders, Dunedin
17 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs Maori All Blacks, Rotorua
20 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs Chiefs, Hamilton
24 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs All Blacks, Auckland
27 Jun The British & Irish Lions vs Hurricanes, Wellington
01 Jul The British & Irish Lions vs All Blacks, Wellington
08 Jul The British & Irish Lions vs All Blacks, Auckland

Touring with the Lions is one of the greatest personal honours for a rugby player. The history, the prestige and the opportunity that the tour presents is often the pinnacle of a playing career. While those fringe players on the cusp of selection wait on selection news, others will be thinking of the summer of rugby tours, with their relevant home nations, as a player could still yet get an unexpected call-up.

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