Warren Gatland and his coaching staff would have learnt a lot since the Lions’ opening victory against the Provincial Union on the 3rd of June. Three victories from five games point to an indifferent tour for the Northern Hemisphere side; who have continually butchered chances, and lacked discipline in the most crucial parts of the 80 minutes.
However, there was a great deal of improvement in the victory over the Māori All Blacks; as Gatland’s men continue to look more like a cohesive unit, with some personnel giving the coaching staff a selection headache in the bid to start the first test.
With some combinations still seemingly undecided, there is a chance for a group of the touring players to put their hands up in the final warm-up game against the Chiefs. Still, Gatland and co. must have a pretty clear idea of their starting XV, and these are Lions players who should head into the first test as starters against the All Blacks:
Openside: Toby Falateau
The offensive and direct game Falateau brings to the front will allow the Lions to keep the Kiwis on the back foot. Image Source: Twitter
12) Owen Farrell
No debate here. The Saracens man will be instrumental this summer, and would make the 12 jersey his own in a Kiwi side. Image Source: Twitter
Openside: Sam Warburton
Tireless work rate, a calm head, and a phenomenal tackling game means Warburton's inclusion as captain and starting position can't be ignored. Image Source: Twitter
Loose-head: Mako Vunipola
The best all-round prop in the game. Image Source: Twitter
Jerzy Janowicz – 6’8
Once reached the dizzying heights of world No. 14 in August 2013. Image Source: Twitter
Image Source: PhotoBucket
4) Maro Itoje
World-class, and the poster boy for the Lions. Image Source: Twitter
Full-back: Stuart Hogg
A highly contested position, but Hogg is just too good a footballer to not have in the side. Image Source: Twitter
Ivo Karlovic – 6’11
The tallest player of all-time is capable of serving at 251km/ph. Image Source: Twitter
Tight-head: WP Nel
The best tight-head in Northern Hemisphere rugby; huge shame he missed the Six Nations through injury. Image Source: Twitter
Outside centre: Jonathan Joseph
For all the Bath man's flair and pace, the way he conducts his defensive duties is simply outstanding. Has to be included for everything he brings to the 13 jersey. Image Source: Twitter
Andreas Siljestrom – 6’9
Given the 35-year-old Swede's lack of success in his career, you have to assume he has a part-time job at Tesco to make ends meat. Image Source: Zimbio
This side looks capable of beating any, but it is the greatest side in the world that the Lions face. The likes of Peter O’Mahony and Kyle Sinckler have hugely impressed this summer, but may fall just short in starting this Saturday.
If this side control the game at their own pace, and manage to boss the set pieces, they could begin with victory in Auckland. The Northern Hemisphere side will take massive confidence from the game the game against the Maoris, but still go into the first test as underdogs; a factor which will perhaps benefit the touring players this coming Saturday.