South African media shocked by Lions omissions of Sexton and Ryan 1 month ago

South African media shocked by Lions omissions of Sexton and Ryan

"I'm quite surprised that he isn't at least in the broader squad."

South African reporter Craig Ray was not the only person rubbing their eyes and double-checking the British & Irish Lions squad today.

Indeed, before Springbok legend Victor Matfield began his chat with the House of Rugby crew, he was concerned about Ireland's captain.

"What's wrong with Johnny Sexton?" he asked. "Is he okay?"

The announcement of the Lions squad was big news down in South Africa, and House of Rugby Ireland [LISTEN from 26:30 below] heard how the omission of two Irish players caused quite a stir.

While we noted - with apologies to Keith Earls - that there were nine big, head-scratching calls by Gatland and his coaching staff, Craig Ray was perplexed at two in particular.

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"Looking at some of the omissions," says Craig, who is editor at The Daily Maverick, "Johnny Sexton is a big surprise.

"He's a big name. I know he's had his injury problems and his form hasn't exactly been great, but he's been there and done it. So I'm quite surprised that he isn't at least in the broader squad.

"James Ryan is the other big one. A good, tough forward. I guess someone like Courtney Lawes is a physical character, too, so it probably came down to that call.

"And the rest, I guess, are such close calls. There's a few, here and there, that you can argue about. Not knowing enough about the players' club form, I reckon Gatland has pretty much got it spot on."

SA Rugby Mag lists Sexton and Jonathan Davies as the top backline casualties, with Billy Vunipola and CJ Stander the most unfortunate forwards.

Over on Supersport, the lack of Ryan, Vunipola, Sexton and Davies raised eyebrows despite Brenden Nel writing that Gatland had selected a strong touring squad.

For Matfield, he agrees with the Alun Wyn Jones captaincy call - "He's a guy that everyone respects" - while he is perplexed that Billy Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi both missed out.

"Those two guys would have been certainties in the team, I would have thought, so I'm surprised they are not there."