Irish rugby fans have been left furious by Lions coach Warren Gatland’s decision to leave Johnny Sexton out of his 37-man squad for this summer’s tour of South Africa.
Gatland announced his touring party for the three-match Test series against the Springboks this summer on Thursday with Wales veteran Alun Wyn Jones named as captain.
Among the most contentious decisions was for Gatland to leave out experienced Irish fly-half Sexton, in favour of Scotland’s Finn Russell, as well as England prop Kyle Sinckler.
Warren Gatland announced his 37-man squad to take on South Africa later this summer and it has caused huge controversy among fans
Japan, June 26, Edinburgh, TBC
Stormers, July 3, Cape Town, 7pm
SA Invitational, July 7, Port Elizabeth, 7pm
Sharks, July 10, Durban, 7pm
South Africa A, July 14, Nelspruit, 7pm
Bulls, July 17, Pretoria, 7pm
SOUTH AFRICA, July 24, Johannesburg, 5pm
SOUTH AFRICA, July 31, Cape Town, 5pm
SOUTH AFRICA, August 7, Johannesburg, 5pm
Sexton, who has been involved in the last two Lions series under Gatland, finished this year’s Six Nations strongly with Ireland but has suffered ongoing concussion problems since.
Irish fans felt particularly aggrieved with James Ryan and Garry Ringrose also missing out.
But it was the decision to leave Sexton at home that caused most uproar.
@mickmuldoon posted: ‘Gatland continues to raise 2 fingers to Ireland, some 20 years later. I bet that ladder had Irish steel in it,’ referring to Gatland’s shock sacking as Ireland coach in 2001.
Another fan simply wrote: ‘Wow. No Johnny Sexton.’
‘Easy knowing there wasn’t any Irish man on the lions committee,’ added another unhappy Irish supporter.
@Dan23_92 tweeted: ‘From an Irish point of view no Sexton or Ryan is a surprise and not something I agree with.’
@Joe_OShea25 commented: ‘Gutted for Sexton to miss out. I understand why with his durability in question but gutted.
‘Thought he performed as well as any 10 in the Six Nations. Criminally underrated this year’.
Another shock was the omission of England prop Kyle Sinckler being left out, given he has been a regular under Eddie Jones in recent years.
Many assumed the Bristol Bears prop would be one of the first names on the team sheet, let alone the squad list.
Sinckler made his name on the 2017 tour to New Zealand and was viewed as odds-on to be in Test contention once more following a strong Six Nations, yet he is missing.
But Gatland has opted to go in a different direction in the front row, selecting props Mako Vunipola, Wyn Jones, Rory Sutherland, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter and Zander Fagerson.
Even seemingly a Wales fan, @al_cardiff1, tweeted his surprise: ‘Sinckler injured? thought he’d be one of the first picked’.
@mana_rugby added: ‘Christ, I just realised Sinckler wasn’t picked?!!’
One fan said: ‘Kyle Sinckler not going is probably the strangest decision for me’, while another tweeted: ‘Gats really thinks that Andrew Porter is a better tighthead than Sinckler. Mental’.
@RoryDaviesCCFC insisted Sinckler and fellow England team-mate were both ‘robbed’.
As Sportsmail reported on Wednesday night, Exeter Chiefs No 8 Sam Simmonds has won a place in the touring party.
Simmonds, the current European player of the year, has been picked by Gatland despite being consistently overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018.
Some fans were delighted that Simmonds has been giving a chance and called on him to ‘show why Eddie Jones should have picked him’.
@MrDanCarroll tweeted: ‘Glad to see Sam Simmons has been picked for the Lions squad. Great player and should have been picked for England in the 6 nations.
‘His time to show why Eddie Jones should have picked him for international rugby’.
@IANSONPJ agreed, posting: ‘Simmons constantly overlooked by @EnglandRugby now a Lion. Tells us everything we need to know about England’s problems recently. Too many people in on name rather than form.’
@iamjollysam wrote: ‘Sam Simmons being selected for the Lions with 7 England caps after being basically ignored by Eddie is absolutely class’.
Speaking after his squad had been announced, Gatland said: ‘To those players that have been selected, congratulations.
‘I know it’s going to be challenging for a number of aspects. I just hope firstly that they thoroughly enjoy the tour and represent their four home nations the best they possibly can.
‘South Africa are going to be incredibly tough. We know how physical they can be and we saw that in the World Cup final but we’ve got to be able to roll up our sleeves and hopefully match that physicality but also be really positive in the way we want to play.
‘We’ve got some exciting players. And hopefully get that balance right between the tough work but also playing some great rugby.’
The 2021 Lions play their first match together in a friendly against Japan on June 26 in Edinburgh.
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS SQUAD
J Adams (Wales)
B Aki (Ireland)
D Biggar (Wales)
E Daly (England)
G Davies (Wales)
O Farrell (England)
C Harris (Scotland)
R Henshaw (Ireland)
S Hogg (Scotland)
C Murray (Ireland)
A Price (Scotland)
L Rees-Zammit (Wales)
F Russell (Scotland)
D Van der Merwe (Scotland)
A Watson (England)
L Williams (Wales)
T Beirne (Ireland)
J Conan (Ireland)
L Cowan-Dickie (England)
T Curry (England)
Z Fagerson (Scotland)
T Faletau (Wales)
T Furlong (Ireland)
J George (England)
I Henderson (Ireland)
J Hill (England)
M Itoje (England)
AW Jones (Wales, capt)
W Jones (Wales)
C Lawes (England)
K Owens (Wales)
A Porter (Ireland)
S Simmonds (England)
R Sutherland (Scotland)
J Tipuric (Wales)
M Vunipola (England)
H Watson (Scotland)