#Gatland beefs up his Lions but chops #Scots and #Hartley

Lions tour 2017

Apr 20, 2017

Kiwi coach picks 41 players for All Blacks test but faces complaints both north and south of the border

David Rogers/Getty Images
Lions captain Sam Warburton with head coach Warren Gatland
                                                                   
Warren Gatland unveiled his Lions squad on Wednesday and, as is the way when it comes to selecting the best of the bunch from four nations, it was met with applause and outrage in equal measure.

The overall reaction was positive to a squad that Gatland chose to expand from 37 players to 41, a nod to the severity of an itinerary that encompasses ten matches in five weeks against the world"s strongest rugby nation. England have the most representatives with 16 players, then Wales with 12, Ireland 11 and there are just two Scots.

Unsurprisingly the indignation was keenest in Scotland and with some justification given that they beat Ireland and Wales in this season"s Six Nations. For the first time since the 1908 Lions tour, there will be no Scottish forwards in the touring party, with wing Tommy Seymour and full-back Stuart Hogg the only Scots to make the cut.
There was also a degree of displeasure south of the border with England captain Dylan Hartley missing out – it"s the third successive Lions tour for which the captain of England has failed to win selection – while there was also no place for second-row Joe Launchbury, one of the outstanding performers of the Six Nations with two man-of-the-match awards to his name.
There was little controversy surrounding Gatland"s choice of captain, however, with Wales flanker Sam Warburton handed the honour for the second consecutive tour. "Sam is a great player, an outstanding leader and a winning Lions captain, " said Gatland. "We believe that Sam’s experience and leadership qualities make him an obvious choice as captain. He has earned the respect of his peers and coaches through his resilience, tenacity and hard work."
Asked to explain the absence of Hartley, who misses out although his England understudy, Saracens hooker Jamie George, is on the plane to New Zealand, Gatland said: "I think it was a discussion that Dylan’s done a great job for England since he started captaining the team, but we felt like we couldn’t leave out Jamie George. Rory Best [Ireland] and Ken Owens [Wales] had great Six Nations as well... Dylan is very unlucky not to be in the squad but somebody else would have been very unlucky if he had been included."
Saying that he and his fellow selectors had had "some lively discussions" about which players to pick, the New Zealand-born Gatland explained why he had enlarged his squad to 41 players. "We know how tough it will be – this is the toughest tour. In previous tours the midweek games tended to be a little easier but when you look at the quality of the opposition we’re facing in midweek it’s going to be hugely challenging. That’s why we’ve taken a few extra players than we did in 2013. We just needed to make sure we have the depth and quality in the squad to make sure we can handle the quality of the sides we’re coming up against."
The unveiling of the squad was received with polite enthusiasm in New Zealand, and a distinct lack of foreboding. "A Lions squad that has equal parts conservatism, boldness, adventure and graft," said Gregor Paul of the New Zealand Herald. "It all looks so good for the Lions, except for one missing piece perhaps. Their squad lacks creative, intuitive footballers with the skills and imagination to ignite their attacking game... without that touch of class and creativity, they might be going home with plenty to think about."
The bookies certainly think so with William Hill making New Zealand white-hot favourites to win the series at 1-4, with a 3-0 series win for them priced at 4-5.
 
British and Irish Lions squad
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 T’eo (England), Anthony Watson (England), Rhys Webb (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Ben Youngs (England)
 
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), 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, capt)

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