British and Irish Lions in South Africa: Choose your starting XV for the first Test

Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Jonny Gray and Alun Wyn Jones
Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Jonny Gray and Alun Wyn Jones are among the locks you can choose for your Lions starting XV

There are many reasons to be grateful for the beginning of a new year, including the fact that there are now seven months to go until the British and Irish Lions’ first Test in South Africa.

The Lions’ first game against the world champions is on 24 July, so now is definitely an appropriate time to start debating who will make it into Warren Gatland’s starting side.

We have put together a list of 80 hopefuls for you to pick your starting XV, but it will not be easy.

The scrum seems to be a particularly tricky area, with a wealth of outstanding players in the back row in particular.

England’s Tom Curry and Sam Underhill? Ireland’s CJ Stander? Wales’ Justin Tipuric? Or will you pick a bolter? Premiership sensation Alfie Barbeary could be an exciting option.

On the 2017 Tour of New Zealand, which ended in a draw, seven English, four Welsh and four Irish players started the first Test.

With England being crowned Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup champions in 2020, a majority of English players may be the way to go again.

Or will you give the Scots a chance for 2021? There are plenty to choose from, with Scotland captain Stuart Hogg and Exeter team-mate Jonny Gray both up for selection.

Check back next week, when we will reveal who was picked by BBC Sport readers.

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2021 British and Irish Lions dates

Saturday 26 June: Lions v Japan – Murrayfield, Edinburgh

Saturday 3 July: Stormers v Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Wednesday 7 July: South Africa ‘Invitational’ v Lions – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Saturday 10 July: Sharks v Lions – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban

Wednesday 14 July: South Africa ‘A’ Team v Lions – Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela

Saturday 17 July: Bulls v Lions – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Saturday 24 July (first Test): Springboks v Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg

Saturday 31 July (second Test): Springboks v Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Saturday 7 August (third Test): Springboks v Lions – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

BBC News