The Lions have a surplus of outstanding forwards and if everyone stays fit, slotting captain Sam Warburton into the appropriate flanker's role will be a knotty problem.

Whatever combination Warren Gatland uses, the pack will come with a guarantee they'll bring plenty of accurate sting about their work, however, behind that grunt the Lions have to shift their thinking to find a backline to challenge the All Blacks.

They need to be bold, fortunate with injury and conditions while they look beyond any clutter or pre-conceived ideas about the merits of certain combinations. From the squad they've picked, this backline looks best equipped to deal with New Zealand conditions and the test series.

Rhys Webb and Owen Farrell should be the halfback/five-eighths combination, Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Davies the midfield partnership, George North and Elliot Daly on the wings with Liam Williams at fullback who offers the best options.


It's a close call between Webb and Conor Murray behind the scrum but the Welsh halfback has that feisty glint about his game to top off his quality passing, kicking and sniping mix as a counter to Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.

Owen Farrell is the strongest goal-kicker in the squad, has a background at first receiver where he will challenge the line hard with his thoughtful variety, his abrasive nature and will also provide that defensive solidity on the inside channels which is so vital these days.

Bruising Henshaw and the equally physical Davies offer the power, graft and venom to provide multiple questions from set-piece and have the work ethic and smarts to match whatever combination the All Blacks choose from their considerable resources.

The back three have to be strong in the air to defuse one of the All Blacks attacking methods and must also have the legs and counter-attacking instincts if they want to hurt their hosts.

Given space, North is a brute of a wing and will demand plenty of attention to neutralise his value and Daly has snappy wheels to cause problems for clunky defences and with a background at fullback, is solid in the air and sharp on his defensive reads.

Four years ago the Lions needed a controversial selection revamp to break a deadlock and gallop away with the final test and a series triumph against an average Wallaby side.

The Lions are superior to their predecessors but the All Blacks are also a jump in class and that is a challenge for innovative thinking and sustained high-quality play from coach Warren Gatland and the visitors.