British & Irish Lions squad: Who is in and who is out of Warren Gatland’s side



Warren Gatland has named 16 England players, 12 from Wales, 11 from Ireland and two Scots in his British & Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand this summer. Not all of them were entirely foreseen, though. Click or swipe through for more.

Ink in Sinck

It is difficult to know which is more far fetched. The fact someone who was a flying full-back when he was first talent-spotted could end up playing international rugby at tight head prop. Or that he could become a Lion after just a handful of substitute appearances for his country.

Kyle Sinckler is as close as it comes to being a Lions bolter in the modern game. Even he had not paid serious consideration to a summer in New Zealand.

“The main thing Eddie [Jones, the England coach] harps on about is just working hard,” Sinckler said on a trip to Dubai two weeks ago. “That is all we can do on the training field and try to be better for the Argentina tour, if I’m lucky enough to be selected.”

He meant it, too. From thinking about an England tour to South America while scouring the food stands at the Great British Tea Party at Dubai’s Meridien Mina Seyahi, to being sized up for a Lions shirt two weeks later. What a rise.

Marvellous O’Mahony

It was chaos theory at its finest. Jamie Heaslip goes down injured (if you believe the official line) in the warm up for the game against England. CJ Stander moves to No 8, thus making space on the blindside flank of the Ireland scrum.

Peter O’Mahony slips on the green No 6 shirt, and promptly delivers the seminal performance of the Six Nations Championship. Et voila, a plane ticket to Auckland was being booked in his name.

The Munster warrior might have played his way into a starting berth for the first Test in Auckland on the back of that one display against England, but the back-row remains the best stocked and most competitive position for the touring squad.

Local knowledge

There is a New Zealander in charge of the squad, and a liberal sprinkling of local knowledge among the player pool, too — although perhaps the best-known Kiwi available for selection did not make it.

Dylan Hartley, the Rotorua-born England captain, was overlooked for a place in the Lions front row. Rory Best, Ken Owens and Jamie George, Hartley’s understudy with England, are the chosen hookers.

Mako Vunipola, the England prop, was born there, although he grew up in the UK. Jared Payne, the centre who was one of the surprise selections, played for three Super Rugby franchises in New Zealand before moving north and eventually qualifying for Ireland.

Ben Te’o, Auckland-born and a former Samoa international in rugby league, will be making the flight back to his birthplace.

Lawes amendment

England’s decision to put two shirts on the wrong pegs during this year’s Six Nations has had a dramatic lasting effect.

Courtney Lawes has continued his revival as a major force in international rugby by being named — presumably — as a lock in the Lions squad.

And that despite playing for the entirety of the Six Nations as a blindside flanker. He might have worn No 5 on his back, but it was Maro Itoje, who has also been named to tour New Zealand, who packed down in the second row.

Lawes asked no questions of the coaching staff who concocted that ruse for England, but he has been given the perfect answer anyway.

“I’m just happy to have come from last year, where I wouldn’t have had a shadow of a chance of getting on tour, to have come so far, and at least give myself a shot,” Lawes said when he was in Dubai earlier this month.

Scots woe

Midway through the Six Nations Championship, Scotland were touted as the coming team. Potential Lions candidates abounded, with Zander Fagerson, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland, and the Gray brothers, Jonny and Richie, all being spoken of in glowing terms.

Then England smashed them in the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham, and the bubble burst.

Stuart Hogg, the Six Nations player of the tournament, has been inked in to start for the Lions in the No 15 shirt by most pundits.

He has made the cut, although whether his brand of flair exactly fits the Warrenball playbook to the extent he will be given a start remains to be seen.

And, anyway, his will be a lonely Scottish voice. Only two Scotsmen made Gatland’s final squad of 41 players, with Seymour being the other, down from three when the side toured Australia in 2013.

Lions squad

• Forwards (22): 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), George Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England), Billy Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (Wales, captain).

• Backs (19): 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).

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