To be a British and Irish Lion is the biggest accolade a rugby player from the British Isles can achieve. Knowing that you are in the top 40 players out of 4 countries must be an incredible feeling.
This honour was given to 41 players on Wednesday due to Warren Gatland’s announcement. The fans were anticipating the announcement too, with many making predictions weeks and even months before Wednesday. Well, if you haven’t seen the team and are excited to find out I won’t delay it any longer. Here is the 2017 British and Irish Lions squad:
Forwards: Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Geroge Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O’Brian (Ireland), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Make Vunipola (England), Billy Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (C) (Wales).
Backs: Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Conor Murray (Ireland), George North (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Jared Payne (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Ben Te’o (England), Anthony Watson (England), Rhys Webb (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Ben Youngs (England).
Many predictions from ex-professionals were nearly bang on, especially Brian O’Driscoll who displayed his on Twitter the morning of the announcement. There were however, a few shocks and disappointments that came from the announcement.
Finally Lions decision day is here. I'm going 14 English, 11 Padraigs, 11 Welsh & 2 Scots….
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) April 19, 2017
Before we get into the nitty gritty of who’s been picked and who hasn’t, let’s talk about the choice of captain- Sam Warburton. This choice hasn’t really come as a shock to anyone. There has been a lot of talk about Sam getting the nod, however I find it interesting that as Wales coach Warren Gatland bumped Warburton as captain and replaced him with Alun Wyn Jones. Wyn Jones is in the squad so does this mean after that incident in the Six Nations, where Wyn Jones went back on a decision due to something Dan Biggar said, that Gatland has lost faith in him as a leader? If this is the case, I still would not have chosen Sam Warburton. If I were in charge of selection I think I would have gone with Rory Best as captain. Although he didn’t steer Ireland to victory at the Six Nations, he rallied his team and stopped England from getting the Grand Slam, and the world record. He also has heaps of experience that would benefit the team. Of course he’ll most likely show some leadership in New Zealand but I think that he was more deserving of the title of captain.
There were many players left out which you might find more shocking, but the following were the most shocking for me. The shocking selections were Kyle Sinckler and Ben Te’o, in the six nations the pair only were given one start for England. To be honest Te’o was less shocking: he did score two tries in the six nations and he was subbed on for quite a few games in the tournament. However, Sinckler did not play very much rugby at all in the Six Nations and, although he has had a good season for Harlequins, I did not see this selection coming. Of course, Warren Gatland knows what he’s doing so I’m excited to see if Sinckler is included in the match day squad and if he is, what impact he will make on the field.
In terms of players not named, there is a number of players that I thought would be included and are not. In terms of England, Joe Launchbury was a shock. He put in two MotM performances in the Six Nations, and his performance at Wasps has been great all season. He has also demonstrated leadership as he captains the Premiership club. The fans themselves were stunned at his omission.
Some may be shocked that Dylan Hartley has not been picked, but in the competitive position he plays in, with the fact that he only played 55 minutes in each Six Nations game and his reputation of bad discipline, I was not shocked at Hartley’s snub.
There were no shocks in terms of players being left out for Wales or Ireland. I thought that the selection of their consistent and cut-throat players have been well thought through. The only blip here, (not so much of a shock but one to contemplate), is Jamie Heaslip not being included. He may not be the flashiest player but he is consistent with good leadership traits. I am however very excited to see Ross Moriarty’s impact against the All Blacks.
In terms of Scotland, the obvious shock is Greig Laidlaw. The scrum half did suffer an injury in the Six Nations so he didn’t have the same amount of time to display his skills as Rhys Webb and Ben Youngs did. However, I would argue that Laidlaw is a more consistent player than the other two named and he would also have offered an element of leadership and another option for goal kicking. Furthermore, I’m surprised that Gatland didn’t take a risk with some of Scotland’s up and coming players, and some long-term committed players. I know that Gatland and his other coaches are gunning for a win in New Zealand but I think that players such as Tim Visser, John Barclay, the Gray brothers and Ali Price would have been a good addition. Of course, Gatland couldn’t choose all of these players because otherwise amazing players from other countries wouldn’t have had a spot. However, I am so shocked that only two players, from this much improved Scotland team, have been chosen.
I’m very excited to watch these three tests in the summer. Playing against the All Blacks is always a steep feat, but I think that with this squad a win is definitely possible.