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Warren Gatland Hard On Scots In Lions Selection

Warren Gatland decides to back Welsh players for the 2017 Lions tour ahead of the Scots.

The 2017 British and Irish Lions selection is complete. Warren Gatland made the announcement Wednesday morning in a press interview of his 42-man squad to travel to New Zealand this summer. The breakdown of players is as follows: England- 16, Wales- 12, Ireland- 11, and Scotland- 2. The decision to heavily weight the squad with Welsh players has been considered odd by many. Many have already attributed his decisions to being the head coach of Wales. He stated that nationality did not play any part of his decision-making process.

“We didn’t go through the numbers. We put together a group of players in each position we felt were in contention and then we went through and individually selected those players.”BBC

His decision to include such a high number of players from Wales is contentious and will be covered later in this article. Here is the breakdown for each country.

England- 16

England had had an impressive performance over the past two years. They have back-to-back 6 Nations titles, one of which was a grand slam. The only match England has lost since the 2015 RWC was this year to close the 6 Nations against Ireland. England has a strong formidable pack and an impressive back line that well deserves to be in the squad.

Forwards-

The front row in this year’s Lions Tour will be dominated by the English. Props Dan Cole, Mako Vunipola, Joe Marler, and Kyle Sinckler all made the cut and well deserved. Hooker Jamie George was chosen over English captain Dylan Hartley. Many expect that decision is due to his club play as opposed to international. Locks Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, and George Kruis are solid lineout performers to a man and are all great workhorses in the pack. If there was a shock to be had from the forwards it would be that only one English player was chosen for the position, Billy Vunipola.

Backs-

Owen Farrell’s selection as fly-half is a matter of absolute necessity as he can also cover center at an international level. Ben Youngs was England’s contribution to scrum-half. Jonathan Joseph and Ben Te’o both have performed very well recently, with Te’o having an outstanding performance in the 6 Nations. Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, and Jack Nowell round out the Lions selections from England.

Wales- 12

This high of a number for selections for Wales is the most off-putting of all the countries involved. Wales finished next to last in this year’s 6 Nations tournament and had a very poor showing last summer against New Zealand. Warren Gatland said that he did not look at the numbers that he picked from each country. He is inevitably going to pick players that he is comfortable with. As Welsh head coach, he will inevitably pick more Welsh players. Is he picking the best players by picking so heavily from Wales? Probably not, but that will be his cross to bare if it goes badly.

Forwards-

The only front row selection for Wales was hooker Ken Owens. He had a solid performance, not highly impressive, but enough to make the squad. Alun Wyn Jones is one of the best second rowers in the British Isles and more so than anyone else on this team deserves his spot. The major concern with the forwards is that four back row players were selected from Wales. Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (c), Ross Moriarty, and Justin Tipuric collectively were outplayed for a majority of the 6 Nations, including by Scotland who did not have a single pick. This was truly a poor pick as their recent performance does not instill confidence and there were definitely better players left out.

Backs-

Rhys Webb had a tolerable performance in this year’s 6 Nations. Dan Biggar could have been swapped with most international fly-halves and very few people would notice. Biggar’s only advantage is his love of the big game. Jonathan Davies performed well in the 6 Nations and deserves his trip. Lee Halfpenny, Liam Williams, and George North all have been great performers for many years. Recently though both Halfpenny and North have lessened on their quality of play and questions can be asked on if they truly deserve it.

Ireland- 11

Ireland has had a great performance over the past year. Last fall Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time, and ruined England’s attempt at a second grand slam. Ireland has a great pack, but is a little light on runners. Ireland suffers from the Welsh overdraw as they have experience winning against the All Blacks within the last year.

Forwards-

Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong will make great Lions, Best should be the starter for the Lions for the test matches as well. Iain Henderson is a great lock and will be a great addition to the squad. Sean O’Brien, C J Stander, and Peter O’Mahony are solid back row players, Stander has been on fire over the past few months and should definitely be the starting 7 for the Lions.

Backs-

Johnny Sexton will absolutely be the hands down starter for the Lions. He is the best fly-half in all of Europe. Conor Murray is a good performer although shown up heavily by Greig Laidlaw in their loss to Scotland. Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne both round out the backs for Ireland. All have performed well over the past year and fully deserve their Jerseys.

Scotland- 2

This number is truly an embarrassment. Scotland lost to only one of the countries on this list, but couldn’t manage more than two picks. This ties for the lowest number of Scots selected in Lions history. Gatland said he did not look at the countries selected and I believe him. In true form, Scotland was forgotten. Following an amazing 6 Nations, Scotland was still left out in the cold at Lions selection time. Many say that the Scottish players simply are not as good as their counterparts from other nations, but the proof is in the results. Warren Gatland has truly failed in ignoring the Scottish talent that exists.

Forwards-

There are none. For the first time since 1908, not a single Scottish forward was selected for the Lions team. Neither Gray brother was selected after having performed exemplary since the 2015 RWC. W P Nel would have been a shoe-in had he been healthy. On the back row, Hamish Watson has been building an amazing career that few outside of Scotland seem to notice. He could easily compete with any 7 on this list, with the exception of Stander. The Scottish back row dominated the Welsh back row in their match and fully deserve better representation.

Backs-

Stuart Hogg is the best fullback on this list. He is the two-time 6 Nations player of the tournament, and a great player for Scotland. Tommy Seymour is a great wing with an amazing nose for the end zone and will give the All Blacks hell on the edges. Greig Laidlaw outperformed both his Welsh and Irish counterparts in their match, potentially he was left out due to injury.

It’s all in Warren Gatland’s hands now.

Warren Gatland has made his selections and although they may have been made better it is done. In the end, it is likely that the success of his team will depend on the selections that he has made. Only time will tell the results of his decision.

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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  • Iain Hay

    Hamish Watson tore Wales apart, runs his arse off for a dreadful Edinburgh team, almost single-handedly keeping them competitive in games whilst those around him crumble, but he’s not as worthy of a place as a half-fit Faletau, or the other 3 Welsh back-rowers him, Barcs and Ryan Wilson smashed?
    Dan Biggar?! No Launchbury?
    Some truly horrible calls in there. Gatland has lied through his teeth with regards to selection criteria.