Six of the 24 British & Irish Lions selected by Warren Gatland to tour Australia this summer have earned places in the 2013 RaboDirect PRO12 Dream Team.
The two youngest members of the 125th anniversary tour party, Glasgow Warriors full-back Stuart Hogg and Scarlets winger George North join Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies in the back-line.
Three of the Ospreys’ five Lions – Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric – and Edinburgh winger Tim Visser are the only survivors from the 2012 RaboDirect PRO12 Dream Team and for the first time in the three seasons in which there have been Italian clubs represented in the tournament, two of their players have been chosen.
Benetton Treviso forwards Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alessandro Zanni both feature in the Dream Team pack as the efforts of their club in finishing seventh overall is reflected in their selection.
Visser may have been pipped by Tommy Bowe to become the first player to score 50 tries in the PRO12, but he retains his place for the fourth successive year in the Dream Team with the highest number of individual votes of any player, 12.
Once again the voting was carried out by the media from the four competing countries and no fewer than 81 players received nominations across the 15 positions. Players from all PRO12 clubs were nominated.
Joining Visser as clear-cut winners in their positions are Leinster out-half Ian Madigan, who polled 11 votes following his excellent season, North (10), Tipuric (8) and Ulster number 8 Nick Williams (7).
Last year’s RaboDirect Young Player of the Year, Hogg, enjoyed a dramatic leap as he was selected for the first time in the Dream Team, while Ospreys forwards Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones returned for the third and fourth time respectively.
Glasgow Warriors lock Al Kellock also made a return to the side having appeared once before in the 2009/10 campaign.
The RaboDirect PRO12 Awards night will take place in Dublin on Sunday when the league’s Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Young Player of the Year will be announced.
2012/13 RABODIRECT PRO12 DREAM TEAM:
Full-Back: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)
Right Winger: George North (Scarlets)
Centre: Luke Marshall (Ulster)
Centre: Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
Left Winger: Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
Out-Half: Ian Madigan (Leinster)
Scrum Half: Niko Matawalu (Glasgow Warriors)
Loosehead Prop: Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors)
Hooker: Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso)
Tighthead Prop: Adam Jones (Ospreys)
Lock: Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
Lock: Al Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)
Flanker: Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso)
Flanker: Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
Number 8: Nick Williams (Ulster)
Teams (7): Glasgow Warriors 4, Ospreys 3, Benetton Treviso 2, Ulster 2, Scarlets 2, Leinster 1, Edinburgh 1
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