Lions 2017: Warren Gatland's forwards in profile

Updated: 

The 2017 British and Irish Lions tour gets under way on Saturday with a clash against the New Zealand Barbarians.

That fixture is the first of six as Warren Gatland's men gear up for their opening Test against the All Blacks on June 24.

Gatland has named a 41-man squad as he looks to repeat the 2013 victory over Australia.

Here we take a closer look at the forwards.

 

Forwards

Rory Best
Ulster & Ireland
Age: 34
Position: Hooker
Test Caps: 104
Test Tries: 8
Lions Tours: 2013

Best is the only man to captain a team to victory over the All Blacks since August 2015, with Ireland having halted New Zealand's record-breaking winning run in Chicago in November. One of a group of leaders in the Lions squad, Best ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to Test selection.

Dan Cole
Leicester Tigers & England
Age: 30
Position: Prop
Test Caps: 77
Test Tries: 4
Lions Tours: 2013

Missed out on the Premiership final despite his strong showing in the semi-final against Wasps, but his experience will be hugely important to Gatland's squad.

Taulupe Faletau
Bath & Wales
Age: 26
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 67
Test Tries: 7
Lions Tours: 2013

Could well be the Lions starting number eight following the withdrawal of Billy Vunipola through injury. Ross Moriarty started all of Wales' Six Nations matches but Faletau's greater experience might put him just ahead in Gatland's thoughts.

Tadhg Furlong
Leinster & Ireland
Age: 24
Postion: Prop
Test Caps: 16
Test Tries: 0
Lions Tours: N/A

Along with Best, Furlong was part of a strong Irish scrum during the Six Nations. Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree said of the prop: "He quietly goes about his business; he's an exceptional scrummager, but he gets his hands on the ball higher than many other tighthead props."

Jamie George
Saracens & England
Age: 26
Position: Hooker
Test Caps: 17
Test Tries: 1
Lions Tours: N/A

Consistently outshone Dylan Hartley from the bench during the Six Nations and was rewarded with a place in the Lions squad at the England captain's expense.

James Haskell
Wasps & England
Age: 32
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 75
Test Tries: 4
Lions Tours: N/A

Haskell spoke candidly about his disappointment at missing his last opportunity at Lions selection when the squad was announced in April, but an injury to Billy Vunipola saw Gatland turn to the experienced back-row.

Iain Henderson
Ulster & Ireland
Age: 25
Position: Lock
Test Caps: 32
Test Tries: 5
Lions Tours: N/A

Part of a strong Irish contingent among the forwards, Henderson will likely be a squad player in New Zealand.

Maro Itoje
Saracens & England
Age: 22
Position: Lock/Back-row
Test Caps: 12
Test Tries: 0
Lions Tours: N/A

Itoje is one of the most exciting talents in northern-hemisphere rugby and the Saracens lock was considered a guaranteed Lions pick by many. After spending the Six Nations in England's back row, a return to the second row could bring the best out of Itoje in New Zealand.

Alun Wyn Jones
Ospreys & Wales
Age: 31
Position: Lock
Test Caps: 116
Test Tries: 9
Lions Tours: 2009, 2013

Another of Gatland's leaders, Jones' experience will complement the youth and relative inexperience of Itoje. Jones has played in every Test on each of the last two Lions tours, and you wouldn't rule out that he could repeat that feat again this year.

George Kruis
Saracens & England
Age: 27
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 20
Test Tries: 1
Lions Tours: N/A

Some are tipping Kruis to make the Test XV despite missing England's Six Nations campaign through injury, with Jones his main competition for a starting berth alongside Itoje.

Courtney Lawes
Northampton Saints & England
Age: 28
Position: Lock
Test Caps: 58
Test Tries: 1
Lions Tours: N/A

Lawes gave Gatland an injury scare in the build-up to departure when he picked up a head injury in Northampton's Premiership semi-final defeat to Exeter Chiefs, sustained when attempting to tackle Lions colleague Jack Nowell.

Joe Marler
Harlequins & England
Age: 26
Position: Prop
Test Caps: 51
Test Tries: 0
Lions Tours: N/A

You can't accuse the Quins prop of not being thorough in his preparations for the tour - he made room-mate Faletau fill out a questionnaire in a bid to get to know him better.

Jack McGrath
Leinster & Ireland
Age: 27
Position: Prop
Test Caps: 41
Test Tries: 2
Lions Tours: N/A

McGrath could be the third member of an all-Irish front row if Gatland decides to go down that route, with Best and Furlong also pushing for starts. The trio started together in the famous victory over the All Blacks in November.

Ross Moriarty
Gloucester & Wales
Age: 23
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 17
Test Tries: 2
Lions Tours: N/A

Has perhaps seen his chances of a start improve since Billy Vunipola pulled out, although Wales colleague Faletau could stand in his way.

Sean O'Brien
Leinster & Ireland
Age: 30
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 51
Test Tries: 6
Lions Tours: 2013

O'Brien is another who has had to contend with fitness issues in the lead-up to the tour and was unable to take part in training last week due to a tight calf. He also missed Leinster's Pro12 semi-final defeat to the Scarlets.

Peter O'Mahony
Munster & Ireland
Age: 27
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 40
Test Tries: 1
Lions Tours: N/A

O'Mahony played his way into contention with some strong performances during the Six Nations, most notably his man-of-the-match display in a 13-9 victory that denied England a second successive Grand Slam.

Ken Owens
Scarlets & Wales
Age: 30
Position: Hooker
Test Caps: 50
Test Tries: 3
Lions Tours: N/A

Owens had to sit out the Scarlets' Pro12 play-off campaign due to an ankle injury but has been training with the Lions to give himself every chance of making the tour. 

Kyle Sinckler
Harlequins & England
Age: 24
Position: Prop
Test Caps: 6
Test Tries: 0
Lions Tours: N/A

One of Gatland's less obvious selections after winning just six caps for England, Sinckler will likely form part of the midweek squad, but will hope to play himself into contention for a place in the Test 23.

CJ Stander
Munster & Ireland
Age: 27
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 15
Test Tries: 6
Lions Tours: N/A

One of the standout performers of the Six Nations, Ireland's Stander was the most prolific ball-carrier of the championship. He also became the first forward to score a hat-trick in the competition since 1962 when he crossed for three tries in Italy.

Justin Tipuric
Ospreys & Wales
Age: 27
Position: Back-row
Test Caps: 52
Test Tries: 4
Lions Tours: 2013

Another of Gatland's Wales stars, Tipuric was part of the squad four years ago but played just 25 minutes of Test rugby.

Mako Vunipola
Saracens & England
Age: 26
Position: Prop
Test Caps: 45
Test Tries: 1
Lions Tours: 2013

Vunipola, like brother Billy, has been troubled by injuries of late, but was an important part of England's unbeaten run of 18 matches. Could miss out if Gatland opts for an all-Irish front row and includes Jack McGrath.

Sam Warburton (Captain)
Cardiff Blues & Wales
Age: 28
Position: Flanker
Test Caps: 76
Test Tries: 5
Lions Tours: 2013

After stepping down as Wales captain in January, Warburton returns to the role of skipper with the Lions, becoming only the second man to lead the tourists twice as he follows in the footsteps of Martin Johnson. Having played with renewed freedom during the Six Nations, Warburton will hope the added responsibility does not adversely affect his form.