Stephen Jones' Lions squad has no place for Sexton or Stander
"You're that fickle that he's gone after one bad performance?!"
With the Six Nations now all neatly wrapped up and Wales celebrating one of the most unlikely title wins in years, much focus is going on the British & Lions selections Warren Gatland will be mulling over the coming weeks.
As champions, Wales will be hoping for strong representation in the final squad, with Ireland, England and Scotland duking it out for the rest of the spots. The tour is on course to be held in South Africa but the amount of warm-up games may determine the size of the squad Gatland brings with him.
While many suspect it could be between 39 and 41, Welsh rugby writer Stephen Jones [see below] has made a conservative selection of 35 players. With those condensed numbers, some high-profile names miss out.
On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 29:00], Fergus McFadden, Ian Madigan and host Eimear Considine selected their starting Lions XV and what other players could travel to South Africa.
While the Lions Test XV of the House of Rugby pundits includes Johnny Sexton and James Ryan, Jones - in his Sunday Times column - does not have the outhalf in his touring squad while suggesting Ryan could make his bench.
From an Irish perspective, Jones selects eight of their players - Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose. On leaving Sexton out, he writes:
"Johnny Sexton has been a great Lion but, at 35, is he in shape physically and mentally?"
Stander does not even come into the conversation for back row positions, even though he can cover all three spots. Neither does Keith Earls, with Jones making a big call to have Sean Maitland as one of his four Scotland inclusions.
The Welshman says he did consider Ulster's John Cooney when selecting scrum-halves, but he ultimately went for Murray, Ben Youngs of England and Wales' Gareth Davies.
The 35-man squad make-up has 13 England players, 10 from Wales, eight from Ireland, with four Scots rounding out the numbers. His Lions XV for the First Test looks like this:
STEPHEN JONES' LIONS XV
15. Liam Williams (Wales)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11. Sean Maitland (Scotland)
10. Finn Russell (Scotland)
9. Ben Youngs (England)
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
2. Ken Owens (Wales)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Adam Beard (Wales)
5. Iain Henderson(Ireland)
6. Maro Itoje (England)
7. Tom Curry (England)
8. Toby Faletau (Wales)
That final number of touring players will be one of the defining moments of this Lions Tour. Gatland will want as many players as possible but he may have to settle for 35 or 36 if some warm-up games are scratched for a shortened tour.
If that is the case, several top players will miss out and the hand-wringing - from all four nations - can begin.