Steve Hansen announced his squad for the Lions tests earlier today and it is a formidable group.
If you’ve watched any Super Rugby you’ll know just how strong a squad this is when Malakai Fekitoa, Damien McKenzie and Nehe Milner-Skudder can’t get in the 33 – or even the replacement cover group, where uncapped Crusader Jack Goodhue is preferred over Fekitoa.
Backs: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo, Nganai Laumape, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Forwards: Kieran Read (captain), Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Wyatt Crockett, Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris.
Injury cover: Liam Coltman, Vaea Fifita, Jack Goodhue, Akira Ioane, Matt Todd.
Steve Hansen has now added Jordie Barrett to the squad making it three brothers to face the Lions.
The other newcomer is Hurricane Nganai Laumape, although he will have a job ousting the probable midfield pairing of Sonny Bill and Ryan Crotty or Anton Leinert-Brown.
Despite all the media talk of injuries to the All Blacks I suspect that the only one of the 33 who is likely to miss out on the three test series is Dane Coles. Coles is an exceptional hooker, but if you saw Nathan Harris playing for the Chiefs against the Waratahs last week then I don’t think Hansen will be that concerned.
Damien McKenzie and Nehe Milner–Skudder did make the Maori squad for the Lions alongside Liam Messam, Akira Ioane and Elliot Dixon – promising another very tough game for Gatland’s team on 17th June.
Steve Hansen said that he thought Warren Gatland was joking when he said he didn’t think there was a lot of difference between the NZ Super teams and the All Blacks – I don’t think there’s too much for the Lions to laugh about in this AB squad.
Even if all five replacements are needed because of failures to recover from injury it is some group of players!