Warren Gatland made the gloom real today with the announcement of the 2017 British and Irish Lions team to tour New Zealand.
Without further ado:
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour. That’s your lot. Less than in 2013 and the same amount as in 2009. Injuries, bans etc may yet play their part but that remains to be seen. That he increased the numbers to 41 and still only includes 2 Scots rankles, as does the inclusion of 12 Welsh, including 6 backs in the worst back division with the worst attack coach of the Home nations.
Here’s the full squad:
Backs: Dan Biggar, Eliot Daly, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Leigh Halfpenny, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Hogg, Jonathan Joseph, Connor Murray, George North, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Seymour, Ben Te’o, Anthony Watson, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Ben Youngs.
Forwards: Rory Best, Dan Cole, Talupe Faletau, Taidgh Furlong, Jamie George, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Ross Moriarty, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Sam Warburton (captain).
Congratulations to all selected.
The only way to get more representation is to get better, they said. If you want something hilarious to chew on, read this Gatland quote from the Scotsman:
“I’m a great believer in the idea that we should want Scotland doing well, because we should want them to be represented in the Lions,” said Gatland in early March. “Sometimes, the team who win the Six Nations can have 17 or 18 in the squad of 38 or 40. The team finishing lowest, you still want six or eight coming in, because then we all feel part of it.”
The team finishing lowest? That’s Wales, his team. What he hasn’t said, is that warm fuzzy inclusiveness comes at the expense of the team who finished above the team who finished lowest, who get just 2 representatives. But you can’t, I suppose, say he didn’t warn us there.
Then, of course, there’s the “voice on the panel” debate. Is this a slap in the face to the SRU for not having urged a coach on board? If it is, it’s a pretty crappy way to dash the hopes of a number of young players who may not get another chance to tour New Zealand – and not with the Lions – in their careers. So far it seems the coaches made their own choices, but it’s not totally clear.
Most likely, despite all the conspiracy theories, Warren Gatland believes that each 50/50 call came down on the side of the player who he thinks offers him the best chance of winning the series with the plan he has in mind.
That would be the only acceptable reason, but doesn’t make it easier to take, or indeed that his judgement on the character of our lads is correct – but that’s what he has to go on.
We’ll have a podcast with full reaction coming soon.