Warren Gatland has told the Lions squad his team for the First Test
"Yeah it was tough, I won’t lie."
Neil Jenkins was reflecting on a team selection session with the British & Irish Lions ahead of their First Test against South Africa.
The Lions assistant met with head coach Warren Gatland and the rest of his coaching staff on Saturday, and again on Monday, to talk through some of the big selection calls for Saturday's game.
The final decisions will be Gatland's, but he does allow open feedback and debate from his coaches. Once he mulls that over, he makes his Starting XV decision and everyone rows in behind the Kiwi. Jenkins comments:
"Yeah it was tough, I won’t lie. There’s some quality in this squad. The guys who are going to be playing will be thankful, the guys who are missing out are unlucky.
"It's not easy. It’s probably the toughest selection we’ve had since we've been involved. That's a positive as far as I'm concerned. Everyone is putting their hands up and playing well. It’s very difficult sometimes to choose someone one over another, but as Gats said it’s just the opinion of some coaches. Whatever team takes the pitch, it’ll be a very, very good side and I know they're looking forward to it."
Sometimes you get an indication as to who will be involved in the matchday squad by who is up for media duty that given week. So far, we have seen Tadhg Furlong, Dan Biggar and, today, Anthony Watson up for briefings.
It was Watson that revealed Gatland would be letting the squad know his team selection this afternoon, before they took to the pitch for their second session of that day.
"I think we're due to find out in the meeting this afternoon before we go out for the afternoon sessions," said the England winger. "We should find out pretty imminently."
The Springboks have named their team for Saturday's game already, with Siya Kolisi and Handre Pollard both starting in a starting XV jammed with World Cup winners.
5️⃣0️⃣-up for Pollard against the Lions on Saturday
🇿🇦 Experienced Bok side named for Cape Town Test
🗣️ “The forward battle is going to be as tough as it gets"
👉 Team announcement: https://t.co/VpaSUP4YGe#CastleLionsSeries #StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/GuTORY78qJ
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 20, 2021
The Lions are set to make the wider public wait until 10am on Thursday morning, but the Lions players that learn their fate today will go to bed either dreaming of that First Test, or what might have been.
"At some point, Gats will make that call when he’s ready (to tell the players)," Jenkins added. "We've trained together for five weeks so a lot of the stuff is already in place, so it’s in Gats’ hands. He’ll let them know in a meeting."
Asked when the selected First XV would train together against the replacements and reserves, Jenkins said it could be as soon as this afternoon.
"Depending on Gats again and whenever he feels he needs to let the guys know," he confirmed. "Could be this afternoon, could be Thursday. It’s when Gats lets them know. But a lot of the stuff is in place so it’s just fine tuning and getting yourself mentally and physically ready for a tough Test match on Saturday."
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 5