It’s Lions time

What a weekend that was! The international campaign ended in stunning style and now all thoughts are turning to the Lions and the six weeks of magic that lie ahead this summer. [more]

It’s Lions time

What a weekend that was! The international campaign ended in stunning style and now all thoughts are turning to the Lions and the six weeks of magic that lie ahead this summer.

Hundreds of you have already posted your Lions XV on our Facebook page Official Lions Rugby or via our Twitter account @lionsofficial and we’re expecting a surge of selections now that the international window is over.

So many of you told us to hold our horses when we raised the debate before and during the RBS 6 Nations but now you’ve got no excuses! It’s now officially ‘Lions time’ and all the national newspapers, rugby websites and former stars are already nailing their selection colours to the mast.

And with the squad announcement on April 30 now less than six weeks away, we thought we’d take a look at who’s being picking who when it comes to the greatest honour of them all.

We’ve gathered together a collection of Test teams from across all four Home Nations and we’re keen for you to tell us what you think.

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Take a look at the ultimate XVs below and then feel free to tell us where the pundits have gone wrong before offering your own tips for the Test team come June 22 in Brisbane via Facebook or Twitter.

Some of them make for particularly interesting reading and certainly raised a few eyebrows in the office. I’m sure a few of you will have a comment or two to make on Steve James’ decision to ignore the English and Scots and select a team made up entirely of Irish and Welsh stars!

So here goes with 14 of the best XVs around…

Simon Lewis (Irish Examiner)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O'Driscoll, Tuilagi, North, Sexton, Phillips; Healy, Hartley, A Jones, AW Jones, Hamilton, Warburton, O'Brien, Faletau

Chris Foy (Daily Mail)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Tuilagi, Roberts, North, Sexton, Phillips; Jenkins, Best, A Jones, Hamilton, Evans, Wood, Warburton, Faletau

Mick Cleary (Daily Telegraph)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, North, Farrell, Phillips; Healy, Best, A Jones, Launchbury, Evans, Warburton, Tipuric, Faletau

Steven Dodd (Scottish Daily Mail)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, Visser, Farrell, Phillips; Jenkins, Hibbard, A Jones, Gray, Hamilton, Robshaw, Tipuric, Faletau

Neil Squires (Daily Express)

Halfpenny; Zebo, O’Driscoll, Roberts, North, Sexton, Phillips; Sheridan, Hibbard, A Jones, AW Jones, Gray, Warburton, Tipuric, Morgan

Declan Whooley (Joe.ie)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Tuilagi, North, Biggar, Phillips; Healy, Hibbard, A Jones, Launchbury, Hamilton, Warburton, Tipuric, O’Brien

Sir Clive Woodward (2005 Lions head coach, Daily Mail)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Davies, North, Farrell, Phillips; Jenkins, Best, A Jones, AW Jones, O’Connell, Warburton, Tipuric, Robshaw

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Leigh Halfpenny is proving a popular choice at full back

Alex Spink (Daily Mirror)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, North, Farrell, Phillips; Jenkins, Hibbard, A Jones, AW Jones, Parling, Warburton, Tipuric, Morgan

Simon Thomas (Media Wales)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, North, Sexton, Phillips; Jenkins, Best, A Jones, Parling, AW Jones, O’Brien, Warburton, Faletau

Brian Moore (ex Lions and England hooker, Daily Telegraph)

Halfpenny; North, O’Driscoll, Davies, Visser, Sexton, Phillips; Grant, Best, A Jones, Hamilton, O’Connell, Tipuric, Wood, Faletau

Ruaidhri O’Connor (Irish Independent)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O'Driscoll, Roberts, North, Sexton, Phillips; Healy, Best, A Jones, AW Jones, Parling, Warburton, Tipuric, O'Brien

Steve Bale (Daily Express)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, Zebo, Sexton, Phillips; Healy, Hibbard, A Jones, AW Jones, Evans, Robshaw, Warburton, Beattie

Hamish Stuart (Sporting Wales and Real Radio)

Halfpenny; North, O'Driscoll, Roberts, Visser, Sexton, Phillips; Jenkins, Best, A Jones, Gray, AW Jones, Robshaw, Warburton, Heaslip

Steve James (Daily Telegraph)

Halfpenny; Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, North, Sexton, Phillips; Healy, Best, A Jones, AW Jones, Evans, Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau

Only three players get everybody’s nod in their current Test team, and all three are Welshmen.

After ending the Championship as the competition’s top points scorer, Leigh Halfpenny is being heavily tipped to be named player of the tournament and all the above want the 2009 tourist installed at full back Down Under.

Stuart Hogg’s superb form for Scotland led to suggestions of switching Halfpenny to the wing but that idea has now apparently been scotched – at least by those listed here.

Mike Phillips is the second ever present, with the scrum-half’s fine display against fellow contender Ben Youngs in Cardiff seemingly cementing his position as the premier No9 on these isles.

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Mike Phillips started all three Tests for Britain and Ireland's elite in 2009

The third full-time starter is tighthead prop Adam Jones after he produced a dominant set-piece showing that saw England loosehead Joe Marler hauled off after just 44 minutes at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Jones made a huge difference to the Lions’ forward platform when he came on as a half-time replacement in the opening rubber against the Springboks in Durban four years ago and he now appears an odds-on favourite to anchor the scrum once more in Oz.

Triple Lion Brian O’Driscoll only misses out once as he looks to build on Test starts in 2001, 2005 and 2009 and Wales wing George North features in all bar two of the teams, as does 2012 Grand Slam skipper Sam Warburton.

The only certainty to come out of the debate so far, though, is that Gatland has a tough job on his hands. Picking a squad and then a XV is going to be an almighty task, and we’d be hugely surprised if any of the pundits get every single name right come the start the series at the Suncorp Stadium.

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