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The winners and losers from the Lions squad announcement

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7th May, 2021
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This Lions squad reveal has plenty of gossip about it.

Warren Gatland, love or loathe him, is making some bold calls. The drama around how this group of men representing the UK and the Republic of Ireland just adds to the excitement of taking on the world champion South African team.

The winners

Rory Sutherland
He is a very lucky man due to the fact injury nearly put his place in doubt. But since returning from a serious injury, his scrum has been awesome. He is a wrecking ball that I am happy to see don the red.

Andrew Porter
He was largely tipped to be the third-choice tighthead, but he could well be the impact sub for the Test team. Working alongside Leinster and Ireland veteran Tadhg Furlong will be interesting to watch.

Zander Fagerson
I thought he had let all his good work go down a drain after his red card against Wales. But while I am shocked to see him here, Fagerson has helped Scotland’s scrum improve greatly, alongside Sutherland.

Chiefs coach Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland has made his selections for this year’s Lions tour. (Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Courtney Lawes
Had he been fit and had a few England games, he would have been a no-brainer. Lawes is a pleasant surprise in the squad given his versatility, lineout option and ability to make bone-crunching, dominant tackles with perfect technique.

Jonny Hill
There is plenty of potential for this big unit, but he has won a lottery. He was a penalty leaker in England’s recent Six Nations campaign and many doubt if he is in England’s top three or four locks in their squad. But the weight of expectation does funny things to people. Perhaps Hill will prove many of us wrong.

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Jack Conan
Conan had been playing well and out of the bold choices, he is going on form and tactical demand. His try against England showed he has the dynamism and agility required for the Lions.

Sam Simmonds
European Player of the Year 1, Eddie Jones nil. Some say he isn’t even the most surprising inclusion or exclusion of the squad, which speaks volumes about how bizarre the announcement was. His pace, footwork and power-running game will be useful on South Africa’s lightning-quick tracks. Still, there are some questions about whether he can perform against a bigger, more organised and aggressive defence and this brings in a size debate. Judging by how Leinster nullified him, the Springboks will be analysing this very closely.

Bundee Aki
He is a highly committed workhorse of a player, but Gatland sees something beyond his 2021 Six Nations campaign. At his best, Aki is a big physical threat with strong crash ball and defensive effort. He is a useful weapon for the Lions.

Bundee Aki

Bundee Aki (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Elliot Daly
He is a silky, skilful player who is more than lucky to make the plane due to his long-range kicking ability and credit from 2017 in New Zealand. Awful tackling and some brain lapses in the Six Nations are overlooked. I would not be surprised if he flourished in an environment where he doesn’t play at 15. Daly will be used as a 13 and wing cover rather than a fullback.

The losers

Kyle Sinckler
How he doesn’t make this squad is alarming. He had enough credit from 2017 and has admirably ironed out his discipline reputation. He is a popular tourist too among other Lions. He has strong defence, he is a strong scrummager and he is one of England’s best carriers. He would have been itching to have a crack at South Africa.

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James Ryan
He’s not as good as what the media hype him up to be, but surely he is a safer bet than the likes of Jonny Hill. His lineout is more than solid and under Paul O’Connell his set piece has improved greatly.

Josh Navidi
The Welsh bruiser is perhaps the most stunning omission given how close he worked with Gatland. He was immense in every game of the Six Nations he played and has some serious work rate on him. Perhaps Gatland could not sacrifice more size with a lighter Navidi. But it is a great shame that he is denied the chance.

Johnny Sexton
I could see this coming purely on the fact that Sexton is sadly facing a case of failing multiple HIAs. His form alone is more than good enough to make this tour regardless of age. It is best for all that Sexton does not face the brutal targeting of the South Africans, regardless of how much of a legend he is.

Henry Slade
He is a versatile back and can competently cover virtually all positions bar nine. He may have not been given the ball much during the Six Nations, but his off-the-ball work has improved greatly. Against France he shut down Virimi Vakatawa brilliantly. It is a great shame that this Chief cannot don the red.

Henry Slade scores a try for England

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Garry Ringrose
He looked so assured for this tour, but the La Rochelle game did not help Ryan and now maybe Ringrose is a casualty from that too.

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Jonathan Davies
He is another big miss. The 2017 player of the series may have been out of form, but it is weird to see him not make his third tour. He is a loyal servant under Gatland. I would’ve thought he’d make this plane.

What could we see? ‘Warren ball’ will return, with a big pack featuring the players listed below.

Strongest 23 to start against South Africa
1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. Alun Wyn-Jones (captain)
6. Maro Itoje
7. Tom Curry
8. Toby Faletau
9. Connor Murray
10. Dan Biggar
11. Liam Williams
12. Owen Farrell
13. Robbie Henshaw
14. Anthony Watson
15. Stuart Hogg
16. Jamie George
17. Rory Sutherland
18. Andrew Porter
19. Tadhg Beirne
20. Hamish Watson
21. Sam Simmonds
22. Ali Price
23. Elliot Daly

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