Yesterday, British and Irish lions head coach, Warren Gatland named his 37 man squad to travel to South Africa this summer for a three test series against the world champions. There was sure to be many surprised faces yesterday among the many players, pundits and fans who attempted to predict the 37 names to be included in the squad as I don’t think anyone quite expected the collection of players we received.
Heading into an incredible fourth lions tour, Welsh Talisman Alun Wyn Jones has been named as tour captain. At 35 years of age, Jones has now become the oldest lions captain of the modern era.
With a total of eight, this squad contains the lowest number of Irish players selected to tour for the Lions since 2001. As we can see from the data above, Ireland’s percentage representation has been on a steady decline, despite climbing to the number one spot in the world rankings following a victory over the All Blacks in 2018.
While the biggest talking points among Irish fans will be the omission of Johnny Sexton and James Ryan, the likes of Cian Healy, Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Keith Earls, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander would all have been hoping they had done enough to earn themselves a seat on the plane. Alternatively, the surprising inclusion of Connaught centre, Bundee Aki, over the likes Henry Slade or Jonathan Davies speaks volumes of the type of game Gatland hopes to play.
England head coach Eddie Jones will be asking himself a number of questions after the selection of Sam Simmons. Simmons will travel to South Africa with the Lions despite not having represented England in recent seasons. His spectacular performances in the English premiership have left fans questioning his omission for the national side for some time now.
Scotland, who also have eight players named in the squad, will be delighted with their largest tally in many years. After a devastating injury ruled him out of the test series midway through the 2017 tour, many are hoping that this is the year that Stuart Hogg steps up to the mark and helps deliver a Lions victory over the world champions in their own backyard.
In all, there are eleven from England, ten from Wales, eight from Scots and eight from Ireland. The excitement begins now to see who will emerge as the front runner for a test start in the warm up games. The tour kicks off with a fixture against Japan on the 26th of June.