The market says this is the Lions squad

Everyone has been selecting squads for the British and Irish Lions tour for months now but the real squad will be unveiled on Wednesday morning at 9am UK time so who is likely to make it and who will miss out? The best way to try and select a squad as close to the real thing as possible is to look at the betting odds. It would be a huge surprise if the set of players named in this blog were not extremely close to being the actual squad. For one trio of England players, their selection will be remarkable. For other England players, their likely omissions were not foreseen, even last weekend.

In 2009 and 2013, the initial Lions squad contained 37 players on each occasion. As this tour is to New Zealand, there is a chance that a couple more may be taken due to the physical demands and the distance that the squad has to travel to get there. I have therefore assumed that Warren Gatland will name 37 players on Wednesday.

In terms of the odds, there are a variety of categories that we can place players into:

Certainties
Players with at least a 90% chance of being selected according to the odds

Near certainties
Players with a 67 – 90% chance of being selected according to the odds.

Probables
Players with a 50 – 67% chance of being selected according to the odds.

Possibles
Players with a 33-50% chance of being selected according to the odds.

Odds were all taken down early on Monday evening so the following is based on the situation then. Also as it turned out, there was no need to go further than certainties or near certainties to select this squad.

So, without further ado, this should be very close to the squad for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

Front Row (9)
Mako Vunipola (England)
Jack McGrath (Ireland)
Joe Marler (England)
Rory Best (Ireland)
Ken Owens (Wales)
Jamie George (England)
Tadh Furlong (Ireland)
Kyle Sinckler (England)
Dan Cole (England)

Based on the odds, only Joe Marler and Jamie George are not regarded as certainties but as their prices fall into the near certainty bracket, they look like they have won their battles with Cian Healy and Dylan Hartley respectively for the third spots at loosehead prop and hooker.

Second Row (6)
Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Maro Itoje (England)
Iain Henderson (Ireland)
Donnacha Ryan (Ireland)
Johnny Gray (Scotland)
Courtney Lawes (England)

The first three named are certainties, the other four are all rated as near certainties. Joe Launchbury is the glaring omission here and Courtney Lawes was not only favoured above him by the market but also teammate George Kruis.

Back Row (6)
Sam Warburton (Wales)
CJ Stander (Ireland)
Billy Vunipola (England)
Justin Tipuric (Wales)
Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)

The first five named here are nailed-on as far as the odds go but the other three also fall into the near certainty basket, as did Ireland’s Sean O’Brien and Ross Moriarty of Wales but they looked less likely than the others.

Scrum halves (3)
Conor Murray (Ireland)
Rhys Webb (Wales)
Ben Youngs (England)

All three are certainties to go on tour with the least likely, Ben Youngs being given over 90% chance.

Fly halves (2)
Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Dan Biggar (Wales)

Only Sexton is a certainty on the markets but the other Dan Biggar and George Ford were priced up as near certainties. As Owen Farrell can also play at 10, there is only the question of whether three more specialist fly halves also go. Given the size of the squad, I have gone for two on the basis of the odds so George Ford looks like missing out.

Centres (4)
Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Owen Farrell (England)
Jonathan Davies (Wales)
Ben Te’o (England)

The first three here were all certainties when the odds disappeared on Monday and Jonathan Joseph had been until Monday afternoon when his price went into the possible category. Ben Te’o was rated a near certainty by the market and if there is to be a surprise fifth centre, look no further than Jamie Roberts.

Back three (7)
Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Elliot Daly (England)
Liam Williams (Wales)
George North (Wales)
Anthony Watson (England)
Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Jack Nowell (England)

Only Leigh Halfpenny and Jack Nowell were not in the certainty category.

So, that is a 37-man squad, the same as in 2009 and 2013. It won’t be spot on but it should be extremely close to the one announced on Wednesday. If the squad is bigger than this, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Roberts look closest to being in.

England’s Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George and Ben Te’o should be the big stories of this squad as the trio have one Test start between them, Te’o’s against Italy in February. So, if all the headlines concentrate on the England players omitted from the British and Irish Lions squad, remember that the inclusion of this trio is remarkable, particularly given that George and Te’o will almost certainly be in instead of the players they were losing out to during the Six Nations.

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