British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa: Fans vote for the starting XV

p1f268nadkoorgnu1us7vf0128tn.jpg

The British and Irish Lions roar back into action this year as they prepare to embark on a monumental tour of South Africa.

South Africa has, at times, been an unhappy hunting ground for the northern invaders, with the Springboks claiming 23 wins to the Lions 17 over the course of their ill-tempered history.

This year, the Lions face yet another mighty task as they jet off to South Africa with their hosts bearing the badge of World Champions - just as it was in 2009.

That titanic 2009 tour will not rattle up happy memories for Lions fans, after a late Morne Steyn penalty killed off the series in the dying minutes of the second Test.

The first Test had been an equally close run affair, with the Springboks pipping their visitors to the post in a brutally hard-fought 26-21 win in Durban.

The Lions were able to salvage some pride at the spiritual home of South African rugby during the third Test in Johannesburg, but by that stage the series, and the tour, was dead and buried.

p1f267po911ihq1seb9c7svr1vj3b.jpg

Now, 12 years on from that fraught African adventure, Warren Gaitland and his merry men are once again preparing to tackle one of the toughest tasks in the game - beating the South Africans at home.

They may have to do it without their usual hoard of red-clad fans roaring in the stands due to travel restrictions but, the same will probably be true for the hosts as well, who will surely miss the support of their fiercely loyal Springbok faithful should the stadiums remain empty.

However, you can be certain there will be some of the highest quality Test rugby on display, and, while they might not be able to travel, fans have still had their say on the team they wish to see.

p1f267suad11si1ud01odd1ll9ggjd.jpg

Picking a first XV for a Lions tour is a frightfully difficult task, so coach Gaitland might be relieved for some help from the fans who have voted for their squad using the First XV selector via the Official Lions App.

Thanks to stats exclusively released by Vodafone, we see that the fans have thrown up some interesting choices - none more so than Alun Wyn-Jones far outstripping Maro Itoje for the captaincy pick, 40% to 22%, while Owen Farrell and Stuart Hogg lagged further behind.

There was another surprise pick in the back-line, with Finn Russell preferred in the crucial fly-half role over Farrell while Robbie Henshaw was comfortably top pick for inside centre.

p1f267ucvjk7b1gun1a5cauo15usf.jpg

Meanwhile, Louis-Reese Zammit earned a spot on the wing after an electric Six Nations with Anthony Watson pipping Johnny May on the opposite flank.

England's belligerent eighth-man, Billy Vunipola, misses out on the squad entirely while popular Scottish full-back Hogg is the most popular pick of the lot.

Undoubtedly this will not be an exact match to the XV that takes to the field for the opening test in Johannesburg, but it is still a ferociously good side.

p1f2680cab129t9c7hi6199s1gafh.jpg

You can find the full match day 23, as voted for by fans, below:

1. Mako Vunipola (29%)
2. Jamie George (39%)
3. Tadgh Furlong (47%)
4. Maro Itoje (77%)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (c) (50%)
6. Tom Curry (50%)
7. Hamish Watson (42%)
8. Taulupe Faletau (46%)
9. Conor Murray (31%)
10. Finn Russell (69%)
11. Louis Rees-Zammit (56%)
12. Robbie Henshaw (38%)
13. Jonathan Davies (35%)
14. Anthony Watson (40%)
15. Stuart Hogg (81%)
16. Ken Owens (34%)
17. Kyle Sinckler (39%)
18. Cian Healy (16%)
19. James Ryan (30%)
20. CJ Stander (43%)
21. Ali Price (22%)
22. Owen Farrell (45%)
23. Jonny May (37%)

News Now - Sport News