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Luke Fitzgerald Isn't Buying Gatland's Excuse For Overlooking James Ryan

Luke Fitzgerald Isn't Buying Gatland's Excuse For Overlooking James Ryan
By Gary Connaughton

Of all the Irish players to miss out on the Lions squad earlier today, none could feel more aggrieved than James Ryan.

The Leinster second-row is one of the most talented players in his position in world rugby, even if he hasn't quite hit peak form over the last 12 months.

He was expected to be part of Warren Gatland's 37-man panel to travel to South Africa this summer. However, the Kiwi instead opted for the likes of Courtney Lawes, Jonny Hill, and Iain Henderson instead.

Ultimately, there were two things that went against Ryan. The first was his lack of versatility, with players capable of playing in multiple positions in the pack being favoured.

Speaking on the decision to leave Ryan out of the squad, Gatland also said that Leinster's recent loss to La Rochelle exposed a lack of physicality in the 24-year old.

James has been pretty unlucky. I thought we an example - for me - last weekend with Leinster against La Rochelle.

And if you want to have a look at a match, probably the La Rochelle side reminded me of what we're going to face in South Africa.

We're going to face big, physical men. We saw that with [Will] Skelton, we saw that with how direct they were in terms of coming off 9.

And probably in the last couple of years with Leinster, and a couple of those big games.... I know they were really good against Exeter, we saw in that weekend, and we saw probably 12-months ago against Saracens in the European match where people have really gone pretty hard at them physically up front.

However, not everyone is buying that explanation.

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Speaking on the Irish Independent's 'The Left Wing' podcast, Luke Fitzgerald said that the claim that James Ryan is not physical enough to cope against South Africa doesn't add up.

There are contradictory decisions.

Some people are picked for their physicality, and then some people don't fit that bill. Then I look at other people who are picked on form and others are aren't in form but got picked.

I just think there are contradictions all over the place. You could say that there are 37 people there, and that is always going to be the way and you just have to fit the coach's eye. Otherwise, you call into question the consistency in the selection and the criteria that they use...

I think if it (Ryan's exclusion) is based on La Rochelle, it is unfair and doesn't really make sense.

One of the few tests that Exeter had this year was against Leinster and their pack got destroyed, and I didn't think Jonny Hill was good against Ireland either. I think he has potential and he is a big man, but there is no way you can tell me he is a better player than James Ryan.

Also, is Courtney Lawes a heavyweight? I don't think he is in that sense. I think Will Skelton would make a lot of players look a bit silly.

It was certainly a very harsh call.

SEE ALSO: Ronan O'Gara Says Johnny Sexton's Lions Omission 'Doesn't Make Sense'

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