Rugby Union

The Ireland players on the Lions tour profiled

Ireland's Jared Payne is tackled by Australia's Bernard Foley (right) during the Aviva Stadium before the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 26, 2016. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission.

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JARED PAYNE (Ulster)

Age: 31

Position: Full-back

Caps: 20

THE versatile New Zealand-born back was barely included in the conversation prior to the hours before the announcement. Warren Gatland coached him at Waikato and didn't renew his contract, so quite the turnaround. Though named as a centre he could well see time at full-back, though he will struggle to edge his way into the starting team at either post.

ROBBIE HENSHAW (Leinster)

Age: 23

Position: Centre

Caps: 29

IT'S hard to believe Henshaw is still only 23. Has an opportunity to make a serious mark and with George Ford's omission potentially hinting at Owen Farrell playing at fly-half, the Leinster man could well find himself in favour. More natural at 13 than 12, a midfield partnership with Jonathan Joseph could be enterprising.

JONATHAN SEXTON (Leinster)

Age: 31

Position: Fly-half

Caps: 66

WHEN he's fit, Jonathan Sexton remains the best fly-half in the northern hemisphere. His ability to control and dictate a game is superior to Owen Farrell or Dan Biggar. Injuries curtailed his impact on Ireland's Six Nations campaign and it showed at times.

CONOR MURRAY (Munster)

Age: 27

Position: Scrum-half

Caps: 57

POSSIBLY the most intriguing battle for position will be at scrum-half, where Conor Murray and Rhys Webb look set to fight it out for the number 9 shirt. Murray's recent injury may work against him but his sniping play has been invaluable to Ireland's success, and New Zealand really struggled with him in the Autumn.

JACK McGRATH (Leinster)

Age: 27

Position: Prop

Caps: 41

HAS become the new Mr Reliable in the Ireland front row, taking on from his Leinster team-mate Mike Ross. Loosehead McGrath's workrate and ball-carrying ability have edged him ahead of Cian Healy, and that's borne out in the Lions call as well.

TADHG FURLONG (Leinster)

Age: 24

Position: Prop

Caps: 16

TWO years ago he was virtually unheard of beyond the inner circle and yet here he is, a deserved inclusion in the Lions squad for the first time. Renowned as a world-class scrummager, Furlong can be relied upon for moments of inspiration around the breakdown as well.

RORY BEST (Ulster)

Age: 34

Position: Hooker

Caps: 104

HE may have missed out on the captaincy but his place in the squad was never really in doubt. Has enjoyed a fine 12 months and has generally stood out since assuming the Ireland captaincy two years ago. One of three Ulster players on the plane, he'll battle with Ken Owens and Jamie George for his spot.

IAIN HENDERSON (Ulster)

Age: 25

Position: Lock

Caps: 32

IT'S fair to say that despite having amassed 32 caps, injuries have still somewhat curtailed Iain Henderson's international career. That's only testament to his talent, that he has kept himself in the eyeline with some brilliant displays when he's been available. Can play in the back row but unlikely to be deployed there, he will be an outsider to start.

CJ STANDER (Munster)

Age: 27

Position: Flanker

Caps: 15

SINCE winning the man-of-the-match award on his international debut, the South African born back row has looked every inch a Lion. The debate over whether he's more effective at number 8 or at blindside will come back into focus now. A fearsome ball-carrier, it will be hard to leave the Munster man out of the team.

PETER O'MAHONY (Munster)

Age: 27

Position: Flanker

Caps: 40

LOOKED like his chance was gone until he forced his way back into the Ireland team and produced such a wonderful, towering display in the Six Nations finale against England. As gritty and determined as they come, the Munster captain may not start but will be a serious option from the bench.

SEAN O'BRIEN (Ireland)

Age: 30

Position: Flanker

Caps: 49

ANOTHER that has had his fair share of injuries over the last couple of years but remains hugely effective when available. The Tullow Tank admits he has taken a slight step back from the ball-carrying duties with others around, but he's as good around the breakdown as you could wish to have.

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