With the announcement of the British & Irish Lions squad that will tour New Zealand less than a month away, and the Six Nations behind us as a measuring stick, World Rugby Shop has decided to get on the bandwagon and stick our necks out by picking the 15 players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales who should start the first test against the All Blacks at Eden Park in June…
It wouldn’t be World Rugby Shop if we didn’t put our own spin on it, however, so we’ll also be examining each of our chosen player’s boot choices as we go through the list – let’s kick things off by examining the forward pack!
1) Loosehead prop – Mako Vunipola (England)
Has battled with Joe Marler for the England number 1 jersey this season, and Wales’ Rob Evans may also be in the frame, but the 2013 Lion offers the kind of all-round game that Lions coach Warren Gatland will crave. One of the most destructive and skillful ball-carriers around, his set-piece work has also improved significantly in the last year.
Boots worn – adidas Kakari Force
Mako is a player who refuses to take a backward step, Mako wears the Force variant of adidas’ hugely popular Kakari silo – with its sock-like construction that locks the foot in place for maximum traction.
2) Hooker – Ken Owens (Wales)
Barely even mentioned as a contender for the tour before the Six Nations, ‘The Sheriff’ has kept out once-popular captaincy candidates Dylan Hartley and Rory Best by simply being the best player at his position in the Six Nations. The Scarlets hooker has always been solid in the scrum, and a bruising, barreling ball-carrier, but it was his line-out performance (missing just one throw in five games) that showed he’d taken his game to a new level.
Boots worn – Under Armour ClutchFit Force 3.0
Breaking the remarkable adidas hegemony of our pack, Owens opts for Under Armour’s laatest iteration of the ClutchFit silo. While the ClutchFit might more commonly be seen on fleet-footed backs, most notably UA’s ambassador Leigh Halfpenny, the anti-slip material in the heel offers maximum traction both in the loose and the tight.
3) Tighthead prop – Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
Furlong’s reputation as one of the best young props in the world was cemented with two powerful performances against the All Blacks back in November, and he showed little sign of slowing down in the Six Nations, with his set-piece work hugely effective, and his bruising, dominating ball-carrying already lighting up the YouTube highlight reels.
Boots worn – adidas Kakari Elite
Perhaps a sign of how much the Leinsterman enjoys getting the ball in his hands in open space, he opts for the back row-aimed Elite version of the Kakari silo, with a stud configuration designed to help a runner keep balanced.
4) Second row – Joe Launchbury (England)
A strong contender for player of the Six Nations, the Wasps lock has struggled with injury issues in the last few years, but there are few more reliable workhorses when he’s fit and in form. Every team needs a grafter, and Launchbury’s workrate and physicality add real heft to our Lions pack.
Boots worn – adidas Kakari Light
Launchbury might cut an imposing figure at 6’6 and 269 lbs, but he’s also an impressive athlete who can cover the ground at quite a rate when he gets those big levers pumping, and so it’s no surprise he favours the lightweight iteration of the ever-present Kakari silo.
5) Second row – Maro Itoje (England)
Injuries have seen the former England U20 captain pushed to the back row this season, but lock is where this once-in-a-generation talent belongs. An athlete of truly astonishing power and dynamism, the Saracens man will compliment Launchbury’s industry and grit superbly.
Boots worn – adidas Adipower Kakari
Given his versatility, it’s perhaps a little surprising that Itoje opts for a boot designed for the tight five forwards – with its superlight technology offering greater ground control and dynamic foot position to keep the England man moving forward whether he’s playing at five or six.
6) Blindside flanker – Sam Warburton (Wales, captain)
Captain of the Lions 2013 Tour, a stellar Six Nations and a move from seven to six has seen the Welshman rocket into the favourite to lead the party again, on the back of performances of power and intensity, mixed with some of the most effective breakdown work in the business.
Boots worn – adidas Kakari Light
A longtime adidas ambassador, Warburton has worn the Kakari Light for several season now, where the raised heel design provides extra explosive acceleration for the former Wales captain to fly into tackles and jackal the ball at the breakdown.
7) Openside flanker – Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
After a season and a Rugby World Cup lost to injury, the Ireland flanker made his only start of the tournament in the climax against England, and promptly reminded us, and the watching Warren Gatland, that he is one of the finest flankers around. Adept at either six or seven, the Munster captain is a fine purveyor of the breakdown arts, relentless and dogged in defence, and as he demonstrated in Dublin a few weeks ago, one of the most effective and disruptive lineout forwards in the business.
Boots worn – adidas Kakari Light
The Light is aimed at flankers, and its suitability for the job is exemplified by it being the footwear of choice for both of our loose forwards.
8) Number 8 – CJ Stander (Ireland)
The South African has been a revelation since he qualified for Ireland on residency last year. One of the most dominant ball-carriers in the business, he simply will not be stopped by a single tackler, but he’s more than just a bruiser – the hat-trick he scored against Italy marks him out as a player of rare pace and agility for his position. Ireland have generally used Stander at six, but he showed where he truly belonged with 80 minutes at the base of the scrum against England, something that Munster fans will be fully aware of – he’s won man of the match so many times for the Irish province this season, he’s had to start keeping them in his garage as there’s no room left in the house!
Boots worn – adidas Adizero Malice
An unusual boot for a one-of-a-kind player, Stander opts for a silo that’s more associated with wingers than bruising flankers, but when you see him sprinting across open ground, you’ll understand why he favours a boot engineered for faster acceleration and explosive stepping.
So there we have it, World Rugby Shop’s Lions forwards that we think will take it to the All Blacks in New Zealand? Think we’re mad? Let us know, and keep an eye out for our backs selection very soon! Leave your comments below.
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