The English media reaction to Lions squad announcement was suitably spiky 5 months ago

The English media reaction to Lions squad announcement was suitably spiky

"Is this a gigantic two fingers to Eddie Jones and the English selectors?"

Ah, yes, there it is. You did not have to wait long, on Thursday, to find someone slamming the table and asking what Warren Gatland was thinking with his Lions squad selections.


Stephen Jones [quoted above] was asking tough questions but the Welsh scribe was often drowned out by irate English voices.

Gatland who, it is worth noting, led the British & Irish Lions to a series win with Australia and a draw with then-world champions New Zealand, sat back as team manager Jason Leonard read out the names of the 37 selected players. For the rest of the day, Gatland seemed to be on defence.

Predictable enough, one posits, when the likes of Jonathan Davies, James Ryan, Kyle Sinckler, Johnny Sexton, Josh Navidi, Garry Ringrose and Henry Slade all missed out. Gatland was fielding more questions about the lads not going to South Africa than the ones that will be, this summer.

The Kiwi was even asked about the stand-off [or float-off] between the UK's Royal Navy and French fishemerman in the channel of water around Jersey. With his Lions squad set to train on the island before heading on tour, Gatland remarked:

"We have just got to make sure if we do go fishing we don’t go out too far!"

There will be cribbing over the next 48 hours but Monday will bring relative peace and a renewed focus on the men that have been chosen to tour. Until that day [read more below], some in England and Wales had to get some stuff off their chest. Never mind that both nations make up 58% of the Lions squad (21 players).

On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 1:30] Eimear, Fergus and Ian got the South African reaction to the squad announcement, while hearing from a pretty content Scot - Lions backs coach Gregor Townsend.


Lions team manager Jason Leonard reads out the name of Maro Itoje at the squad announcement event. (Credit: Inpho)

The consensus between the South African and Irish voices, on the show, was that biggest squad omissions were Johnny Sexton, Jonathan Davies, Billy Vunipola and James Ryan. Former Springboks captain Victor Matfield also questioned why Manu Tuilagi had not been selected.

On House of Rugby UK, former Wales and Lions prop Adam Jones said leaving out Harlequins, England and 2017 Lions tighthead Kyle Sinckler from the touring squad had stunned him.


Over on The Ruck, their Times columnists felt Gatland - despite selecting the largest contingent of touring players, 11, from England - had sent a message to Eddie Jones. Asked by Jones if the selection was 'a gigantic two fingers to Eddie Jones and the English selectors', Owen Slot replied:

"It's hard to see it any other way... A while back, Eddie said he was hoping to get 20 English players on the Lions Tour... well, he's got 11, and one of them is Sam Simmonds, who he has been diligently ignoring for the past three years."

The same podcast featured Jones remarking that Irish fans would still want Sexton to be selected, even when he's 96, while Stuart Barnes described Connacht and Ireland centre Bundee Aki as the weakest of the 37 picks.

Gatland leaving Sinckler at home was a feature take from The Guardian on Thursday evening. Their Gerard Meagher described his non-inclusion as a "bombshell" and featured a short explanation from the Lions head coach:


"Kyle was very unlucky. There are a couple of tighthead options and we went for Andrew Porter because of his versatility in being able to cover both sides [of the scrum]. Tough call, but we're happy with the balance we've got at the moment."

Over in The Telegraph, meanwhile, there was more on the perceived Gatland vs. Jones rivalry. "Gatland has shown no hesitation," writes Gavin Mairs, "in delivering the Australian – an old rival – a slap in the face with his previous Lions picks, but this year’s could be the most emphatic of all."

Finally, The Daily Mail ran a 'Gatland's Rejects XV' that included four Irish players - Sexton, Ryan, Cian Healy and Rob Herring.

The Scots, for the record, are buzzing with their eight inclusions.