Warren Gatland picks 10 Irish players in strongest Lions XV, right now
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has picked his British and Irish Lions squad, on current form.
Unsurprisingly, on the back of their Grand Slam triumph, Irish players dominate the selection with Gatland naming ten Irish starters, as well as two players on the bench.
Writing for his Telegraph column, the Kiwi has picked a team on the proviso that they were playing this weekend - this provides an explanation for his omission of Garry Ringrose.
The big takeaway from Gatland's 23 is that, having previously been a doubter, he has in the mean-time been won over by James Lowe. Gatland left Lowe out of his 2021 British and Irish Lions on the basis of 'the number of defensive errors he was making.'
"He has addressed some of the defensive lapses that he had previously and scores crucial tries in big moments," Gatland says now.
Gatland, who has managed every British and Irish Lions tour since 2013, has previously admitted to have questioned his own decision to leave Johnny Sexton out of the last tour. It's a full 360 this time around as he names Sexton at 10 and as captain.
"He had a tremendous Six Nations Campaign and like a good wine seems to be getting better with age.
"He runs Test matches like a chess grandmaster – he has plenty of time on the ball and is excellent at making the right decisions in terms of when to run, pass or kick."
Another interesting point to note is his selection of Jack Conan in the starting team. Conan only started one Six Nations game for Ireland, having been usurped by Peter O'Mahony for a starting spot, but he did make big impacts off the bench, and Gatland is clearly a fan.
"I have gone with an all-Ireland back row, but probably not what most people might expect. Peter O’Mahony has had a good Six Nations and is unlucky to miss out but I have gone with an all-Leinster combination.
"I have a lot of time for Jack. He doesn’t make many mistakes and I like the balance," he said.
Warren Gatland's Lions 23
15. Hugo Keenan, Ireland, full back
14. Duhan van der Merwe, Scotland, wing
13. Huw Jones, Scotland, outside centre
12. Sione Tuipulotu, Scotland, inside centre
11. James Lowe, Ireland, wing
10. Jonathan Sexton (captain), Ireland, fly-half
9. Jamison Gibson-Park, Ireland, scrum-half
1. Ellis Genge, England, loosehead prop
2. Dan Sheehan, Ireland, hooker
3. Tadhg Furlong, Ireland, tighthead prop
4. James Ryan, Ireland, lock
5. Maro Itoje, England, lock
6. Jack Conan, Ireland, lock
7. Josh van der Flier, Ireland, flanker
8. Caelan Doris, Ireland, No 8
16. George Turner, Scotland, hooker
17. Andrew Porter, Ireland, prop
18. Zander Fagerson, Scotland, prop
19. Jonny Gray, Scotland, lock
20. Jamie Ritchie, Scotland, flanker
21. Alex Mitchell, England, scrum-half
22. Owen Farrell, England, fly-half
23. Robbie Henshaw, outside centre
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