There will be eight Irish players in the British and Irish Lions Squad hopefully travelling to South Africa this summer, though not all of the ones forecast by the experts in advance.
Bundee Aki was a surprise among the backs, alongside Robbie Henshaw and Conor Murray, though Johnny Sexton’s absence caught most by surprise and Garry Ringrose was also on many of the lists.
Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Andrew Porter and Iain Henderson made the cut in the Forwards, leaving James Ryan to wonder what might have been.
The four Leinster players are the lowest number they have had on a squad in 20 years, while five of the Irish players will be making their debut in the group.
Gerry Thornley writing in the Irish Times was particularly critical, saying that “Sexton is still a better Test outhalf than any of Owen Farrell, Finn Russell or Dan Biggar. He’s proved this on previous tours and previous Six Nations, and again in the 2021 Six Nations when having the most minutes, scoring the most points and having the biggest influence at 10. As in 2013 and 2017, the Lions’ chances in the Test series would be better for having him in the team, never mind the squad. His absence weakens them.”
Alun Wyn Jones has been named as the Tour Captain, having led Wales to victory in the Guinness Six Nations this season. He captained the team in 2017 in the final test as a replacement for Sam Warburton. This will be his fourth Tour with the Lions.
“Selecting a Lions squad is never easy and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in,” said Coach Warren Gatland.
“Over the course of the last three weeks, the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position.”
“We saw some outstanding performance in the recent Six Nations, so competition for places has been tough with some incredibly tight calls to make.”
“However, we are very happy with the squad we have assembled and look forward to meeting up in Jersey in just over a month’s time to start our preparation to take on the World Champions. We’ve left out some very talented players which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be.”
“Being selected for a Lions Tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today.”
There will be more Irish interest with Vodafone’s sponsorship team here playing a leadership role in the brand’s backing of the Tour.
We will be covering that side of events over the summer over the coming weeks and months.
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