The biggest Lions head-scratchers as Warren Gatland surprises us all 1 month ago

The biggest Lions head-scratchers as Warren Gatland surprises us all

"Sadly, if it wasn't them, it was going to be someone else."

Like a true, stoic captain, Alun Wyn Jones was not being drawn on names when he was asked for his take on a 2021 Lions squad with some huge omissions.

While many of us will be focusing on the players not in Gatland's 37-man squad, the Welshman felt it was apt to speak about a young player who made the cut.

"There were a few big omissions, as there always are... there are a lot of guys going on their first tour, like Louis Rees-Zammit, and it will be special for them."

For all the speculation, talk of bolters, jingoistic campaigns and nailed-on Lions, Warren Gatland and his coaches threw out plenty of curveballs. The inclusions of Jonny Hill, Bundee Aki, Ali Price and Jack Conan were not predicted by many.

However, let us focus on the biggest cuts from that 37-man squad:

JONATHAN DAVIES

Excellent in 2013 and Player of the Series in 2017, was asked to switch to inside centre for the Six Nations and delivered. Will be asking himself how the hell he did not make the cut.

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JOHNNY SEXTON

His concussions, in February and March, may have cost him a place in the squad. Completely outshone Finn Russell in their Six Nations duel, but Gatland and his coaches may have put his fitness concerns high in the 'Cons' column when making the final call.

JOSH NAVIDI

This poor bloke was brilliant in the Six Nations - an absolute workhorse - but has to miss out on the party.

BILLY VUNIPOLA

Sam Simmonds and Jack Conan going ahead of Billy Vunipola. Who would have called that, six months ago? We were all expecting a big Saracens name to miss out, and it was the No.8 who, in fairness, dipped in the recent Six Nations.

JAMES RYAN

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What a hammer blow for the Leinster and Ireland lock. Only last November, many [including Ugo Monye] were tipping him as a starting lock with Maro Itoje. Now he misses out as Jonny Hill of Exeter makes the cut. Concussion issues going against him too.

GARRY RINGROSE

For the second tour in a row, Ringrose is desperately unlucky to miss out. Ireland's best player of 2020, he was injured during the Six Nations and obviously did not do enough to convince the coaches he was back to full fitness, and form.

MANU TUILAGI

Many had tipped him as a surprise selection and as a possible starter, but his lack of game time this year went against him. Ultimately, the coaches may have selected Bundee Aki ahead of him.

TOMOS WILLIAMS

Backed by Sam Warburton to make his Lions XV for the Tests, Williams has completely missed out. Gregor Townsend coming in as backs coach sees Ali Price nip in ahead of him.

CJ STANDER

His ability to cover across the back row saw many people tipping Stander to make his second squad. As it turns out, it could be Jack Conan's selection that saw him edged out.