Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Lions name team to tackle All Blacks

Big pats on the back will be coming for Warren Gatland after he unveiled a Lions squad that has equal parts conservatism, boldness, adventure and graft.

He's picked a captain he knows and trusts and one with previous experience and with the exception of the Scots, who were expecting next to nothing after such an outcome had been heavily flagged, Gatland has balanced his nationalities in proportions that should prevent accusations of favouritism.

Given the physical edge in the pack, he's clearly committed to his belief that to win in New Zealand, the Lions need men with mental resilience and an attitude that says they will never step back.

But here's the big question that has to be asked: has he picked a squad that is good enough to win the test series? Does he have the players at his disposal to beat the All Blacks in two tests in their own backyard?

And that's where it gets a little harder to be so enthusiastic about the Lions.

They certainly have a lot of bases covered. There's no question they are going to be able to scrummage. Tick that one now.

Irishman Tadhg Furlong put a bit of heat on the All Blacks last November and looks well equipped to anchor any scrum from tighthead.

Their lineout is just as certain to be a reliable bit of machinery. They have big, athletic locks and hookers with good core skills. It's not a worry for them - Alun Wyn-Jones, Iain Henderson and Maro Itoje are all ball winners.

The tackled ball area should be an area where they can also compete. CJ Stander showed in November that he's a handful and skipper Sam Warburton is as good as any openside in the world at getting over the ball and pinching it. Again, they should feel confident about their capabilities there and also in the general business of collisions and fronting physically, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis and Toby Faletau live for that sort of stuff.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are an experienced halfback pairing who will run a tight and organised ship and Owen Farrell will barely miss a goal while he's here.

It all looks so good for the Lions, except for one missing piece perhaps- their squad lacks creative, intuitive footballers with the skills and imagination to ignite their attacking game?

Their midfield options look exceptionally dry: functional sorts who will bang up the middle and take a bit of tackling. Being direct is fine, but it's not enough in itself to really trouble the All Blacks.

England's Jonathan Joseph possesses the skills and speed that might have the All Blacks concerned and George North can play, really play as the All Blacks discovered in the first test against Wales last June.

But that's it. The rest of the backs don't appear to carry that touch of magic the Lions are going to need to beat the All Blacks twice. Where is their Beauden Barrett? Who is going to spark them the way Ben Smith does the All Blacks? Do they have a player like Sonny Bill Williams in their midst?

Presumably Gatland thinks he's going to get that touch of SBW-type - magic, that little bit of x-factor he wants from his wild card selection, Ben Te'o.

Maybe he will but there was nothing on view during the Six Nations that suggested it was in the pipeline. Te'o is a long shot to blossom and comes with the obvious risk that he has barely played at the highest level.

And who else is there? Anthony Watson has been out here and didn't excite. Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg played well in the Six Nations, are busy clever players, but neither has been out there and that's maybe a reason to wonder whether they have the bottle to do their stuff in the toughest conditions.

It's a strong, serious-looking Lions squad that will match the All Blacks in all the table stake areas of set-piece, breakdown and defence. But without that touch of class and creativity, they might be going home with plenty to think about.

Lions squad to tour New Zealand

Backs: Dan Biggar, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Leigh Halfpenny, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Hogg, Jonathan Joseph, Conor Murray, George North, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Seymour, Ben Te'o, Anthony Watson, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Ben Youngs.

Forwards: Rory Best, Dan Cole, Taulupe Faletau, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Ross Moriarty, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Sam Warburton (captain).

- NZ Herald

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