Rugby

Lions XVs From UK Pundits Don't Spell Good News For Irish

Lions XVs From UK Pundits Don't Spell Good News For Irish

"Some people think that maybe the English players are better than the Irish players but I don't think that for a minute."

So said a very pissed off Ronan O'Gara in 2006, right after Ireland's triple crown win in Twickenham. It was one of a few cracks ROG had that year, clearly annoyed at the perception in England and in rugby media in general that England belong at the top of the natural order in Europe and get continuously put on a pedestal. We wonder, 15 years on, if finishing 5th in the Six Nations has done anything to dampen an English assumption they are simply superior to their rivals in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland in 2021?

The Lions squad being is due to be named by Warren Gatland on May 6th. There are still a number of twists and turns to go before we'll be even sure that squad will travel to South Africa this summer and actually compete in a Test series, but at least today, there was some tangible news, finally.

This morning, Warren Gatland announced his coaching team, one which doesn't include any Irish representatives, although Leinster coach Robin McBryde, from Wales, has been named alongside fellow Welshmen Neil Jenkins and Steve Tandy, and Scotland coach Gregor Townsend. It's not Gatland's first choice team given a number of coaches have declined to be part of the setup, but it's one that could work out well for some younger Leinster players.

Of course, picking the squad is only half the fun. Then it's all down to who is going to start the first Test Match on, hopefully, July 24th. Post Six Nations time in any Lions year is very often silly season for pundits, journalists, and fans to pick their ideal Lions teams. It's always interesting to get the perspective from outside of Ireland to see just how our players are perceived by those in the other nations. For example, a Lions XV without Robbie Henshaw in inconceivable to those of us watching Ireland and Leinster matches in the last few months, but he's not being selected in many English's pundits' teams.

We've broken down a number of the more recent selections from pundits across the Irish Sea, mainly from England, in recent weeks to see what the consensus over there really is. Needless to say, finishing 5th in the Six Nations hasn't diminished England's players in any way in their eyes.

Danny Care: BBC Rugby Weekly

Advertisement

7 English, 5 Welsh, 2 Irish, 1 Scottish

15 Stuart Hogg

14 Anthony Watson

13 Jonathan Davies

12 Manu Tuilagi

11 Liam Williams

Advertisement

10. Owen Farrell

9 Conor Murray

1 Joe Marler

2 Jamie George

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

Advertisement

5 Alun Wyn Jones

6 Justin Tipuric

7 Tom Curry

8 Toby Faletau

The England scrum half hasn't thought twice about including seven of his teammates in the starting XV as they compete against the pick of three countries who beat them in the spring. Conor Murray is the only Irish player selected outside of Tadhg Furlong, who is one of ? players named in every pundit's team.

 

Advertisement

Chris Robshaw: RugbyPass Offload

7 English, 5 Welsh, 2 Irish, 1 Scottish

15 Liam Williams

14 Anthony Watson

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Owen Farrell

Advertisement

11 Louis Rees-Zammit

10. Finn Russell

9 Kieran Hardy

1 Joe Marler

2 Jamie George

3 Tadhg Furlong

Advertisement

4. Mato Itoje

5 Alun Wyn Jones

6 Toby Faletau

7 Tom Curry

8 Sam Simmonds

Another team selecting seven players from a team that just finished 5th in the Six Nations here. The former England captain is sticking close to home for the most part. In picking the same front row as his former teammate Care, he's gone for a prop who didn't play in the Six Nations, and a hooker who was dropped during it. He's also selected Sam Simmonds at Number 8, who isn't in Eddie Jones' squad, based on his form with Exeter, where Jack Conan, Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier played him off the park at the weekend.

Advertisement

Not picking Stuart Hogg at 15 definitely leaves Robshaw in the minority, anyone who's seen all three play on current form will be a bit perplexed as to how a Lions could team could select two out-halves, and Johnny Sexton is the man left out. #

 

Lawrence Dallaglio - Sunday Times

7 English, 4 Irish, 3 Welsh, 1 Scottish

15 Stuart Hogg

14 Anthony Watson

Advertisement

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Owen Farrell

11 Johnny May

10. Johnny Sexton

9 Conor Murray

1 Mako Vunipola

Advertisement

2 Jamie George

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

5 Alun Wyn Jones

6 Tadhg Beirne

7 Tom Curry

Advertisement

8 Toby Faletau

Another former England captain has not made the same choice in regards to Sexton, including both he and Farrell, reuniting the 10/12 partnership that lit up the second and third tests in New Zealand four years ago.

 

Stuart Barnes - Sunday Times

6 English, 4 Irish, 4 Welsh, 1 Scottish

15 Liam Williams

Advertisement

14 Anthony Watson

13 Henry Slade

12 Owen Farrell

11 Josh Adams

10. Finn Russell

9 Conor Murray

Advertisement

1 Cian Healy

2 Ken Owens

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

5 James Ryan

6 Tadhg Beirne

Advertisement

7 Sam Underhill

8 Toby Faletau

Barnesy throwing Cian Healy in as starting loose-head is a certainly a surprise. Leaving Tom Curry out of the backrow is an even bigger shock. James Ryan finally gets a nod here, as does Tadhg Beirne, who we thought might sneak onto a few more teams given his performances in the Six Nations.

 

Stephen Jones - Sunday Times

5 English, 4 Irish, 4 Irish, 2 Scottish

Advertisement

15 Liam Williams

14 Anthony Watson

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Sean Maitland

10. Finn Russell

Advertisement

9 Ben Youngs

1 Mako Vunipola

2 Ken Owens

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Adam Beard

5 Iain Henderson

Advertisement

6 Maro Itoje

7 Tom Curry

8 Toby Faletau

Not unusually, Stephen Jones' selections leaves us with more questions than answers. Taking Itoje out of the second row seems an unlikely option, especially for unproven Welsh lock Adam Beard. His selection of Sean Maitland on the wing also raises a few eyebrows.

While Jones made some news at the weekend for a piece suggesting Scotland's Hamish Watson shouldn't be brought on the tour despite his fine form, he almost questioned if Johnny Sexton, at 35, might be not there mentally, which went under the radar, and is suitably absurd.

While we love to think of Jones as anti-Irish, the truth is his eccentricity sees no borders. In his article, he makes the case for John Cooney and Devin Toner to be included in Warren Gatland's squad.

Advertisement

 

Jim Telfer - The Offside Line

5 Irish, 5 Welsh, 3 English, 2 Scottish

15 Stuart Hogg

14 Anthony Watson

13 Garry Ringrose

Advertisement

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Liam Williams

10. Finn Russell

9 Conor Murray

1 Wyn Jones

2 Ken Owens

Advertisement

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Alun Wyn Jones (captain)

5 Maro Itoje

6 Tadhg Beirne

7 Tom Curry

8 Toby Faletau

Advertisement

The legendary Scot, a former Lions coach, and famously, the assistant to Ian McGeechan on the 1997 Tour of South Africa has made a selection that's very favourable to the the Irish players.

 

Chris Foy - Daily Mail

5 Welsh, 4 English, 4 Irish, 2 Scottish

15 Stuart Hogg

14 Anthony Watson

Advertisement

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Manu Tuilagi

11 George North

10. Johnny Sexton

9 Conor Murray

1 Wyn Jones

Advertisement

2 Ken Owens

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain)

6 Tom Curry

7 Hamish Watson

Advertisement

8 Toby Faletau

Foy has a well rounded team, and is the first to find a place for Hamish Watson in the backrow. It's also the only team that punishes English players for awful form, and notably, Itoje is the only Saracens player who is selected.

 

Nik Simon - Daily Mail

6 Welsh, 6 English, 2 Scottish, 1 Irish

15 Stuart Hogg

Advertisement

14 Anthony Watson

13 Jonathan Davies

12 Owen Farrell

11 Liam Williams

10. Finn Russell

9 Danny Care

Advertisement

1 Joe Marler

2 Ken Owens

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain)

6 Tom Curry

Advertisement

7 Justin Tipuric

8 Toby Faletau

Only the Mail's Simon has gone for the nuclear option of dimissing Irish players not named Furlong altogether. He also picks two out-halves that aren't named Sexton, and even names Dan Biggar ahead of the Irish captain in his pecking order. Robbie Henshaw is not deemed worth of mention is his reasoning. His selection of Danny Care at scrum half is bizarre.

 

Will Kelleher - Daily Mail

7 English, 6 Welsh, 2 Irish, 0 Scottish

Advertisement

15 Liam Williams

14 Anthony Watson

13 Jonathan Davies

12 Manu Tuilagi

11 George North

10.Owen Farrell

Advertisement

9 Conor Murray

1 Maku Vunipola

2 Ken Owens

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain)

Advertisement

6 Tom Curry

7 Sam Underhill

8 Toby Faletau

Kelleher is the only writer we've found that has excluded one of the countries entirely with no Scot making the team. Hogg isn't even considered at full back with Williams being described as one of "the simplest picks." In general, Kelleher has gone for what is basically a England/Wales mashup we're not sure we'd be too interested in cheering for.

 

Andy Goode - The Rugby Pod

Advertisement

7 Welsh, 4 Irish, 3 Scottish, 1 English

15 Stuart Hogg

14 George North

13 Jonathan Davies

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Duhan van der Merwe

Advertisement

10. Dan Biggar

9 Conor Murray

1 Wyn Jones

2 Ken Owens

3 Tadhg Furlong

4. Maro Itoje

Advertisement

5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain)

6 Tadhg Beirne

7 Hamish Watson

8 Toby Faletau

Former England out-half Andy Goode has gone the other way completely from most of his compatriots and absolutely destroyed England for their 2021 form. Only Maro Itoje keeps his place in the starting XV.

 

Advertisement

Jim Hamilton - The Rugby Pod

5 Scottish, 4 Irish, 3 Welsh, 3 English

15 Stuart Hogg

14 Liam Williams

13 Chris Harris

12 Robbie Henshaw

Advertisement

11 Duhan van der Merwe

10. Owen Farrell (captain)

9 Ali Price

1 Wyn Jones

2 Jamie George

3 Tadhg Furlong

Advertisement

4. Maro Itoje

5 Iain Henderson

6 Tadhg Beirne

7 Hamish Watson

8 Toby Faletau

Goode's pod partner, and former Scottish international, Jim Hamilton, clearly has a few biases of his own, with Scottish names not even mentioned elsewhere popping up in his starting Lions XV.

Advertisement

 

Consensus Lions: 

Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Toby Faletau

 

Most selected Irish players in Lions XV: 

Tadhg Furlong 11/11

Advertisement

Conor Murray 6/11

Robbie Henshaw 6/11

Tadhg Beirne 5/11

Garry Ringrose 3/11

Johnny Sexton 2/11

James Ryan  1/11

Cian Healy 1/11

Overall, the UK writers certainly, on balance, see a team made up on mainly English selections, with a splattering of Gatland Welshness, with some Irish and Scottish making up the numbers. It remains to be seen if Warren Gatland agrees with the consensus, such as there is one. More importantly, a Lions year is never straight forward. Injuries will play a huge part, and with a lot of rugby still to play before the end of the season, form will still play a part for some selections.

 

SEE ALSO: The Most Capped Irish XV To Never Play In A Lions Test

Lions XV

Michael McCarthy

You may also like