Rugby World Cup: British & Irish Lions select XV
IT MAY have been partly down to the scheduling but who would have predicted Scotland would be the last northern hemisphere team, never mind the last Home Nation standing at the World Cup?
Not only that, they did themselves proud in that classic quarter-final against subsequent finalists Australia and did much to prove the Wooden Spoon whitewash in the Six Nations earlier in the year was nowhere near an accurate reflection of the talent in Vern Cotter’s squad.
In the last four British and Irish Lions tours the tartan contingent has been pitiful, little more than three or four in squads of over 30. Some players have been unfortunate to be overlooked, being part of a Scotland team that more often than not loses games in the Six Nations counting against them.
However, the strength of Wales and Ireland in recent years has been equal to and, more often than not greater than England’s, and it’s no surprise that these three nations have taken the lion’s share, so to speak, of places on recent tours.
In this World Cup, the pressure of hosting got to England and they bombed out in the pool stages, while large injury tolls eventually got to the Welsh and the Irish and they lost to South Africa and Argentina in the last eight.
The next Lions tour, to New Zealand, is under two years away and a lot can happen between now and then but if a squad was to be picked today based on performances in the World Cup there would undoubtedly be a strong Scottish unit in the pool.
We have picked World Cup Lions XV in which Scots make up over half the team - a tad optimistic perhaps but let us know your thoughts.
THE SCOTSMAN’S WORLD CUP LIONS XV
15 ROB KEARNEY (IRELAND)
Scotland’s Stuart Hogg showed flashes, but Kearney battled through knocks and fatigue to prove he is still a class act in this position.
14 ANTHONY WATSON (ENGLAND)
One of the few English players to emerge from the tournament with credit, his dancing feet and electric pace terrify opposition defences.
13 MARK BENNETT (SCOTLAND)
A fabulous tournament from the Glasgow Warriors centre, solid in defence for his stature, great game awareness and has an eye for the tryline.
12 ROBBIE HENSHAW (IRELAND)
Recovered from injury to play in the latter part of Ireland’s campaign and showed what a promising talent he is.
11 TOMMY SEYMOUR (SCOTLAND)
Defensively suspect on occasion but the Glasgow man is arguably one of the most lethal finishers in world rugby currently, which edges him past an off-colour George North. His try against Australia in the quarter-final was his fourth in as many Tests and he now has a strike rate of 11 touchdowns in 22 caps.
10 DAN BIGGAR (WALES)
Finn Russell had an injury-interrupted tournament but still showcased some flashes of trademark brilliance. However, Biggar is one of the player’s of the tournament with his brilliant game management and metronomic goalkicking, and gets the nod over the Scot and Jonny Sexton.
9 GREIG LAIDLAW (SCOTLAND)
Has had his doubters this year but was absolutely magnificent in the World Cup, led from the front from the first game, drove his team on, scored tries, kicked goals and played his rugby with great maturity.
1 CIAN HEALY (IRELAND)
Scotland’s front row was immense in the World Cup, and Al Dickinson stakes a claim for loosehead, but Healy remains the main man in this position.
2 RORY BEST (IRELAND)
Best’s accurate throwing, powerful scrummaging and all-round loose game makes him the obvious choice at hooker.
3 WP NEL (SCOTLAND)
A candidate for Scotland’s player of the tournament, was an absolute beast in the scrum and helped Scotland get on top of Australia’s vastly-improved pack at Twickenham.
4 RICHIE GRAY (SCOTLAND)
Some observers felt his performances had dropped off since he made the last Lions squad in 2013 but he stepped up to the plate at the World Cup with some towering displays.
5 JONNY GRAY (SCOTLAND)
Phenomenal work-rate and consistency, the younger Gray has the potential to be one of Scotland’s greatest forwards and deserves the nod ahead of veteran Alun Wyn Jones of Wales.
6 TOM WOOD (ENGLAND)
Was excellent against Fiji in the opening game and, while the English pack toiled against the Welsh and Australians, Wood remains a top performer.
7 JOHN HARDIE (SCOTLAND)
We may be a bit biased here as Sam Warburton is the obvious choice at openside and had a good tournament, but Hardie was a revelation. A Duracell Bunny of a performer and relentless in the tackle, a constant thorn in oppositions’ sides.
8 DAVID DENTON (SCOTLAND)
One of the most impressive ball carriers in the tournament he raised things to an even higher level in the quarter-final against Australia with an awesome display of power.