Rugby

The Rugby World Reacts To Warren Gatland's 2021 Lions Squad

The Rugby World Reacts To Warren Gatland's 2021 Lions Squad

After months of speculation and pundits arguing over who they would bring to South Africa, Lions coach Warren Gatland put us all out of our misery this morning, as he named his squad for the 2021 Lions Tour.

You'd think that, with the world watching, they would have gotten straight down to business with the squad announcement, but no - instead, the stream meandered through interviews with different Lions "legends", as well as Springbok Bryan Habana. It was nearly an hour into the stream before we found out who the Lions captain would be - as expected, it was Welshman Alun Wyn Jones.

When they finally did announce Alun Wyn Jones' captaincy, it was done in the most bizarre fashion. The Wales captain appeared out of thin hair as a hologram, in a scene reminiscent of Star Trek. The reveal was maybe the most exciting thing that happened during the entire announcement.

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At long last, the squad was revealed, with plenty of surprises - both good and bad - from an Irish perspective.

Maybe the biggest news was of Johnny Sexton's omission. Given the players he was up against, it was always going to be tight, and news leaked on Thursday morning that the Leinster man would be left at home. There was an air of sad acceptance about the news more so than outrage, given it wasn't much of a surprise. There was also surprise at the omission of Kyle Sinckler, Henry Slade and Josh Navidi.

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But on a more positive note, there were 8 Irishmen named in Gatland's squad, with a few surprise inclusions. As expected, Tadhgs Beirne and Furlong were included, along with Robbie Henshaw. Conor Murray's selection never seemed in doubt, especially after Ben Youngs' withdrawal - but nobody could have seen Bundee Aki's place in the squad coming.

Aki wasn't even an Ireland regular during the Six Nations, but his inclusion was a welcome surprise for Irish fans. It was a particularly emotional day for Connacht fans, who have a representative in a Lions squad for the first time in 38 years.

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Leinster's James Ryan was a sad victim of his recent injury issues, with his fellow Irish second-rows Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne making the squad ahead of him.

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Jack Conan and Andrew Porter were both on the fringes in lots of predicted squads, so their inclusion was also a welcome surprise for Irish rugby fans.

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The squad was generally met with some surprise and excitement, with all focus turning now to the squad's preparation for the summer tour. Congratulations are due for all of the Irish Lions, and commiserations to those who were left out.

If you made it through the first hour of the livestream, we commend you.

SEE ALSO: Eight Irish Included As Lions Squad For South Africa Tour Named

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Eoin Harrington

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