With this years 6 nations having a huge influence on who will get selected for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand I decided to have a look at what a ‘European Lions’ team could look like. Realistically this would probably never happen due to lack of funding and history – especially with the continuance of the British and Irish Lions called into question and only kept going through tradition.
I have selected from a player pool of anyone hailing from mainland Europe, based on current form for club and country, proven class and potential, with special attention to performances in the 6 nations.
- Jefferson Poirot – France
There is no real stand out for this position so Poirot gets the jersey out of his consistency. Having impressed at Bordeaux, he got the call up to make his international debut this 6 nations and did a reasonable job of it. France did struggle at the scrum at times however Poirot can be forgiven as he had the highest turnover count of anyone in his position this tournament.
- Guilhem Guirado – France
Arguably the best hooker in the northern hemisphere and has been in the form of his life since being made captain. His barnstorming runs made him France’s top scorer this tournament with two tries and also has been ferocious in defence making the most tackles of any French player.
- Levan Chilacheva – Georgia
Made his debut for Toulon and Georgia at the age of 20 in 2012 after coming up through Toulon’s youth academy, learning from the likes of Carl Hayman and Martin Castrogiovanni. Chilacheva is now making the Toulon 3 shirt his own and showing prowess and experience of someone far beyond his years.
- Yoann Maestri – France
France’s gnarled, rough enforcer has formed half of a formidable second row partnership with Pascal Pape over the past 4 or so years. A very experienced player that has learnt all the tricks of the trade, from how to perfectly steal an opposition line out ball to how to put in cheap shots on the opposition flyhalf without being called up for it.
- Konstantin Mikautadze – Georgia
The Georgian lock has been gaining more and more acknowledgment and praise since earning his first senior cap for Toulon in 2011. After fighting off competition from Jocelino Suta, Romain Tofifenua and Samu Manoa in Toulon’s engine room he has become a highly rated player for both club and country.
- Mamuka Gorgodze – Georgia
The icon of Georgian rugby and their hard, physical pack. After gaining recognition at Montpellier Gorgodze has now nailed down a place in Toulon’s star studded pack. He is Georgia’s captain and top try scorer, despite playing second or backrow, and has earned the man of the match award in four world cup matches.
- Yacouba Camara – France
Despite falling victim to France’s constantly changing team (8 different backrow forwards have played for France this 6 nations) he gets the nod for this team. After impressing for Toulouse for a while and only 21 years old he looks to be a huge future star and given the opportunity will take it. He offers something slightly different here making a well-balanced backrow.
- Sergio Parisse (C) – Italy
Nothing even needs to be said to justify his selection. Possibly the best number 8 in the world and has been single handedly carrying Italy for the past decade or so with a skillset that most backs would envy. Despite his age he still gets better, leading Stade Francais to top 14 champions in 2015.
- Edoardo Gori – Italy
Gori has really come into form for Italy over the past few seasons culminating in an excellent 6 nations this year. Offering good, quick delivery to the backs and not afraid to make darting runs around the breakdown, punishing any lazy defenders.
- Francois Trinh-Duc – France
One of the most talented French outhalfs for a long time but was criminally underutilized during the Saint-Andre era. Made an instant impact on the organization of France’s backline when he came into this years tournament.
- Wesley Fofana – France
Only available for the last two matches due to injury but in them he offered a second real threat on the wing. His usual position is at inside centre but he has amassed plenty of caps and proven his ability to play on the wing too. A class player whatever number he has on his back.
- Jonathan Danty – France
Played a large part in Stade Francais’ top 14 title win in 2015 and has carried his form to international level. Runs hard lines that draw in multiple defenders then has the skill to offload into the space he created. Could link up incredibly well with:
- Michele Campagnaro – Italy
Made his breakthrough in the 2014 6 nations then missed out on all but one match of the 2015 edition through injury but is now back and better than ever – clearly benefitting from playing a higher standard of domestic rugby since moving to Exeter chiefs. If surrounded by better backs he could be considered among some of the best 13s in the world on current form.
- Virimi Vakatawa – France
A bold move from Noves by selecting the sevens player to start this 6 nations after not playing the 15 man game for 3 years, but it certainly paid off. Knows how to beat defenders with his quick feet but can also use his physicality to equal effect, you can definitely see his Fijian blood in how he plays.
- Scott Spedding – France
The South African born Frenchman made a name for himself playing at Bayonne, earning himself a call up to play for his adopted county in 2014 and has since been ever-present on the team sheet. Safe under the high ball and in defence and offers powerful counterattacking runs, a reliable and useful fullback.
- Camille Chat – France
Burst onto the international scene not long after his 20th birthday this 6 nations seemingly out of nowhere. However he proved his worth at Racing 92 whilst his mentor Dimitri Szarzewski was on international duty during the world cup and now their rolls have reversed. A very athletic ‘modern style’ hooker with enormous potential.
- Eddy Ben Arous – France
Did not play his best at this years tournament however he has proved that he has what it takes to be a top flight player at Racing and in last years 6 nations. Has an excellent work rate and is good at the breakdown, often acting almost as an additional backrower.
- Davit Zirakashvili – Georgia
A legend of the front row and has been one of the leading forces in making Georgia become the physical, forward orientated team they are. A stalwart of the Clermont front row amassing 245 caps for them over the years.
- Alexandre Flanquart – France
Has been an important figure at stade francais since earning his first cap in 2009 and has been doing the job internationally for a number of years too. A dependable player and solid at the lineout.
- Julien Bardy – Portugal
Despite playing limited international rugby Bardy has become a key figure in the top 14. Having played in two European champions/Heineken cup finals and a top 14 final, with Clermont, he is an experienced, wily operator to bring on at either flank of the scrum.
- Maxime Machenaud – France
Never earned the caps he deserved for France due to Saint-Andre’s inconsistent selections. Was given the 9 jersey after Bezy somewhat underperformed and Machenaud proved that it was the right decision. A phenomenal kicking display against England, keeping France in contention despite not scoring any tries compared to England’s three.
- Carlo Canna – Italy
Italy seem to change their flyhalf twice every season however this 6 nations new finding seems to be the real deal. Unlucky to miss the later stages of the tournament through injury but for the matches he played he looked calm, composed and organized. The sort of flyhalf Italy needs in order to improve.
- Gael Fickou – France
Fickou has amassed 19 caps for his country despite being only 21 years old, an impressive feat. He has shown sparks of real ‘french flair’ and if he keeps progressing could be a future great. His preferred position is 13 but is capable enough to cover 12 and possibly the wing.
A largely French based team with the inclusion of a few Italian backs and Georgian forwards however could provide some exciting, high quality rugby. If given the same preparation time and resources could this team challenge the British and Irish lions? It would certainly be an interesting match.