With the All Blacks having selected their side to take on the Springboks in Wellington on Saturday, July 5, we pick our own New Zealand 22 featuring Kiwis who took on the Lions in 2005 and have since joined the European exodus.
A staggering 21 of the 22 players in our squad faced the Lions for either the All Blacks or their provincial sides in 2005, with eight of them appearing in the Test Series victory for New Zealand.
Only replacement hooker Anton Oliver wasn’t involved against the Lions, as a torn calf muscle robbed him of a Test place. In almost every other position we were spoilt for choice when it came to selecting players who fell into both categories.
We believe our starting XV of New Zealanders who have played against the Lions and will be plying their trade in European rugby next season would be a match for most international sides, and that’s without including the likes of Dan Carter, who has signed for Perpignan, and Jerry Collins who is also expected to be playing in France next season.
Here’s our alternative All Blacks squad, together with the clubs they will play for in 2008/09 and the games in which they played against the Lions three years ago…
Head coach: Tana Umaga (Toulon) 1st Test, 2nd Test, 3rd Test
15 Carlos Spencer (Northampton Saints) NZ Maori
14 Rico Gear (Worcester Warriors) NZ Maori, 1st Test, 2nd Test, 3rd Test
13 Luke McAlister (Sale Sharks) NZ Maori, 3rd Test
12 Aaron Mauger (Leicester Tigers) 1st Test, 2nd Test,
11 Doug Howlett (Munster) 1st Test
10 Nick Evans (Harlequins) Otago
9 Byron Kelleher (Toulouse) 1st Test, 2nd Test, 3rd Test
1 Clarke Dermody (London Irish) Southland
2 Scott Linklater (Bristol) NZ Maori (unused replacement)
3 Carl Hayman (Newcastle Falcons) NZ Maori, 1st Test
4 Chris Jack (Saracens) 1st Test, 2nd Test, 3rd Test
5 Paul Tito (Cardiff Blues) Taranaki
6 Craig Newby (Leicester Tigers) Otago
7 Marty Holah (Ospreys) NZ Maori
8 Kristian Ormsby (Sale Sharks) Wellington
16 Anton Oliver (Retired, formerly Toulon) Calf injury stopped him facing Lions
17 Joe McDonnell (Newcastle Falcons) Wellington
18 Sean Hohneck (Viadana, previously Bristol) NZ Maori
19 Ben Herring (Leicester Tigers) Wellington
20 Justin Marshall (Ospreys) 1st Test, 2nd Test, 3rd Test
21 Riki Flutey (London Wasps) Wellington
22 Rua Tipoki (Munster) NZ Maori