Recently enough, Warren Gatland the head coach of Lions 2013 said that not many Lions contenders would make a World XV, so I decided I'd try and see who would.
This team is based on form, and on class in recent years.
15. Contenders; Dagg, Beale, Halfpenny, Kearney, Foden
Dagg had been the best full back in the world for the last few years, with Beale close behind. Unfortunately Beale and all his management thinks he's a better 10. He's not. He can't pass properly. Yes he has play making skills, but can't be relied on as a primary play maker.
14. Contenders: Jane, Bowe, North, Habana, Malzeiu.
Malzeiu doesn't get enough recognition for how good he is, but I think he is one of the best. Probably not the best but still. Bowe is world class, but recently gone from being amazingly outstanding to just outstanding. Needs to recover form when he returns from injury.
Cory Jane and Habana had great 2012's and take the spots on the team.
13. Contenders: Smith, O'Driscoll, Davies, Rougerie.
I had a long think about this a long time ago. There aren't many world class 13's. Defence is a key component of this position, which someone like Anthony Fainga'a flourishes, but he is so useless in attack and line-running. Whereas Tuilagi runs great lines, but can't be relied on in defence.
Leaving these three great players. It's a testament to O'Driscoll that after such a consistent career he's still in this bracket. It's not just what he does, it's the calming influence over those playing with him and how he uses his brain to remain one of the best.
12. Contenders: Ma'a Nonu, Berrick Barnes, Wesley Fofana, Frans Steyn.
There are a lot of different types of 12, be it a second five-eight like Barnes or Steyn, or a crash ball specialist in Nonu, or whatever Fofana is.
But whatever Fofana is, he is awesome at it. Solid in defence and breath-taking in attack.
10. Contenders: Carter
For now, Carter is king. There may be challenges ahead with Handre Pollard and Johan Goosen.
9. Contenders: Morgan Parra, Kahn Fotaul'i, Will Genia,
Parra doesn't seem to start for France anymore, and I didn't see enough of Machenaud to include him here, but apparently he's good. Fotauli'i has been awesome since the world cup, but Genia is the best, and will continue to improve.
1. Contenders: Cian Healy, Yannick Forstier, Tendai Mtawrira, Jean Baptiste Poux, Sona Taumalolo
Healy has made huge strides, and is one of the best in the loose and continually improving in the tight, and at times acting as an openside. But Mtwarira is rightly named the beast, and probably gets it for me.
Roncero, having retired can't be considered anymore.
2. Contenders: Stephen Moore, Bismarck du Plessis, Schalk Britz
Bismarck du Plessis is a great player, and should have started for South Africa for the last number of years. His spot to own.
3. Contenders; John Afoa, Owen Franks, Dan Cole, Nicholas Mas,
I can't really say Afoa even those he's been awesome for Ulster, as he clearly wasn't the best in NZ if he left. Dan Cole is probably going to get it, as I don't rate Franks, or any of the SH tightheads.
4. Contenders: Eben Etzebeth, Paul O'Connell, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Bakkies Botha, Richie Gray, Nathan Hines, James Horwill.
Paul O'Connell is beset with injuries, otherwise I'd have in there. There is a changing of guard going on at the moment in this position in world rugby, with Thorn and Botha still playing, but not featuring in world rugby enough anymore.
Etzebeth has been a revelation and there might be an arguement for including him.
But I think Richie Gray has been amazing in losing teams, and I'll give him a spot.
6. Contenders: Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Theirry Dusautoir
There are more South Africans coming up, and Kaino would be included if he hadn't disappeared. But Lobbe is too amazing to leave out from here.
7. Contenders: Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Richie McCaw, Heinrich Brussouw, Juan Manuel Leguizamon,
It's getting closer. It's could have been Pocock before his injury, but now he's not necessarily the best in Australia. For form over the last few years, It has to be McCaw.
8. Contenders: Sergio Parisse, Jamie Heaslip, Kieran Read, Louis Picamoles, Imanol Hariordoquoy
There are a lot of top class 8's in the world. But Kieran Read distanced himself from the rest with an outstanding year.
15. Dagg, 14. Jane, 13. O'Driscoll, 12. Fofana, 11. Habana, 10. Carter, 9. Genia, 1. Mtwarira, 2, du Plessis, 3. Cole, 4. Etzebeth, 5. Gray, 6. Lobbe, 7. McCaw, 8. Read.
Subs: 16. Moore, 17, Healy, 18. Afoa, 19. Thorn, 20. Dusautoir, 21. Fotauli'i, 22. Beale, 23. Davies
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