“Being selected for a Lions tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today.”
These were the words of Lions head coach Warren Gatland on the announcement on the 6th of May for the 37-man squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa and the three tests against the world champions. The size of the squad took a few of us by surprise, as did some of the omissions.
Who’s in and who’s out
So, which players will have the honour of pulling on the 2021 British & Irish Lions shirt in South Africa come July?
First and foremost Gatland has named Alun Wyn Jones as his captain. The 35-year-old Welsh captain comes into the tour on the back of the recent Six Nations win and is of course well known and trusted by Gatland. He’ll be looking to add to his world record 157 tests for Wales and the Lions in the most glorious of ways this summer. Go on Alun!
Other selections of note include Jack Conan – the Ireland No 8, Exeter lock Jonny Hill, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly and Chris Harris. Despite not featuring for England since 2018, Exeter Back Row Sam Simmonds makes the cut in place of fellow England number eight Billy Vunipola. Other notable omissions include probably the biggest shock Kyle Sinckler, as well as Ireland captain Johnny Sexton, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Garry Ringrose, James Ryan, Jonny Gray, Josh Navidi and Jonny May.
The national breakdown of the squad
Scots will be delighted to see eight Scottish players make the cut – the most on a Lions tour since 1993. They include Scotland captain Stuart Hogg and a spot in the squad for the very first time for Edinburgh trio Hamish Watson, Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland as well as Zander Fagerson and Ali Price from Glasgow Warriors.
They’ll be joined by eight Irish players – despite the omission of their captain and talisman, Sexton. The Irish backs include Aki, Robbie Henshaw and Conor Murray, whilst the forward contingent includes Tadhg Beirne, Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Andrew Porter.
England have the most representatives in the squad with 11 players in total, including Courtney Lawes, who’s been out injured since February, as well as Lions stalwart Owen Farrell. The 10 Welsh players include the captain Jones and 20-year-old Louis Rees-Zammit following the winger’s superb Six Nations campaign.
The squad in full
Gatland was expected to name a 36-man squad for the tour but has decided to go one better and included 21 forwards rather than 20, bringing the full contingent up to 37. Why not if you ask us.
Alun Wyn Jones (Wal).
Tadhg Beirne (IRE), Jack Conan (IRE), Luke Cowan-Dickie (ENG), Tom Curry (ENG), Zander Fagerson (SCO), Taulupe Faletau (WAL), Tadhg Furlong (IRE), Jamie George (ENG), Iain Henderson (IRE), Jonny Hill (ENG), Maro Itoje (ENG), Wyn Jones (WAL), Courtney Lawes (ENG), Ken Owens (WAL), Andrew Porter (IRE), Sam Simmonds (ENG), Rory Sutherland (SCO), Justin Tipuric (WAL), Mako Vunipola (ENG), Hamish Watson (SCO).
Josh Adams (WAL), Bundee Aki (IRE), Dan Biggar (WAL), Elliot Daly (ENG), Gareth Davies (WAL), Owen Farrell (ENG), Chris Harris (SCO), Robbie Henshaw (IRE), Stuart Hogg (SCO), Conor Murray (IRE), Ali Price (SCO), Louis Rees-Zammit (WAL), Finn Russell (SCO), Duhan van der Merwe (SCO), Anthony Watson (ENG), Liam Williams (WAL).
What the Head Coach had to say
On naming the squad, head coach Warren Gatland said:
“We believe we’ve picked a squad capable of winning a Test series in South Africa. Selecting a Lions squad is never easy and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in. Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position. We saw some outstanding performances in the recent Six Nations, so competition for places has been tough with some incredibly tight calls to make.
“However, we are very happy with the squad we have assembled and look forward to meeting up in Jersey in just over a month’s time to start our preparation to take on the world champions. We’ve left out some very talented players which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be.”
Clearly some tight calls have been made, but this is a squad we can all be proud of and get behind when the British & Irish Lions 2021 tour kicks off soon. Do you agree with the big calls made by Gatland? Let us know what you think of the squad selection in the comments below and join the conversation on our social channels.