Difference between rugby players and rugby fans summed up in one Lions selection 4 years ago

Difference between rugby players and rugby fans summed up in one Lions selection

We called it 'ballsy'. Many of you, in return, called it 'stupid'.

Not for the first time on this Lions tour, Mako Vunipola gets a reprieve. Jack McGrath gets the No.17 jersey, again.


Despite failing to fire - in a legal manner, at least - in either of his two Test appearances, Vunipola starts at loosehead in the Lions pack for the third, and final, game against the All Blacks.

There was a bellicose presence on social media, last night, with plenty of Lions fans appalled with Warren Gatland's show of faith in the England prop.

On The Hard Yards rugby podcast [from 26:20 below], former Lions outhalf Ronan O'Gara backed Gatland's decision. Isaac Boss agreed with him and you could sense the divide between those that love, play and follow the game and those that have operated at the very highest levels.


Asked if they were happy with Gatland's decision to name an entirely unchanged matchday squad of 23, both O'Gara and Boss nodded their heads. "It's the right call," they chimed.

The case for McGrath starting ahead of Vunipola [four penalties conceded and a yellow card received in his last outing] was made by SportsJOE. I commented:

"Mako has had two bad games in a row. Every other Lion has had a decent performance but he's had two bad games and he has given away a lot of stupid penalties.

"McGrath is the slightly stronger scrummager. What Vunipola is supposed to be bringing to the table is his ball-carrying abilities but I haven't seen much of that in the two Tests. That would be my one change and spring Vunipola from the bench with 20 minutes to go."

While neither O'Gara or Boss were taking anything away from McGrath, they can see the logic in Gatland backing the men that he believes are the right XV to put the Lions in a winning position on Saturday.


Later, on SportsJOE Live, O'Gara opened up more on the Vunipola selection. He said:

"You can't say Vunipola is on [the team] inexplicably. He's on for a reason... 

"Last week he brought a lot of penalties, I completely agree, but good players want to play with good players. He's the type of fella that can make a difference away from home.

"He has the capacity to play the ball out of a tackle and the workload. You have to have some bit of belief in backing a player who is playing for one of the best teams in Europe - Saracens - and for what he has done under Mark McCall."

Gatland has nailed down his front row - Vunipola with Jamie George and Tadhg Furlong - from early in the tour and O'Gara believes the loosehead will have sorted and squared off his discipline issues by the time Saturday comes around.

It's a big call but the former Ireland stars can completely see the logic.