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No Room For Henshaw In Ronan O'Gara's Lions Test XV

No Room For Henshaw In Ronan O'Gara's Lions Test XV
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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Ronan O'Gara was the latest Sky pundit to pick his XV for the opening Lions test against South Africa on Wednesday night, and there were some surprising calls in his selection.

Over the course of the Lions' touring games in South Africa, the Sky pundits have taken turns selecting their XV, with Maggie Alphonsi, Sam Warburton, and Ian McGeechan all offering up their selections.

Ronan O'Gara picks his XV for the first Lions test

On Wednesday night, after the Lions' 17-13 defeat to South Africa 'A', Ronan O'Gara was next up.

O'Gara travelled on the last tour in South Africa in 2009, playing in the second test against the Springboks. For his XV, he said he had "tried to get the balance right between ball carriers and people who are good at the breakdown."

ROG's first text XV

15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

14. Anthony Watson (England)


13. Elliot Daly (England)

12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)

11. Liam Williams (Wales)


10. Owen Farrell (England)


9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

1. Mako Vunipola (England)


2. Jamie George (England)

3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)

4. Maro Itoje (England)


5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)


8. Tom Curry (England)

Ronan O'Gara Lions XV

ROG had a different view on the injury situations of Alun Wyn Jones and Robbie Henshaw.

There was room for four Irish players in Ronan O'Gara's Lions XV - with Bundee Aki perhaps a surprising inclusion. The omission of Robbie Henshaw was the biggest call made by O'Gara, though he explained his reasoning behind leaving out the Leinster and Ireland centre.

I think, as you can see, the one clear criteria for me changing from player to coaching is people have to be fit. So I didn't include Robbie Henshaw because I think it would be smart, maybe, if he has a hamstring issue, to get him right for tests 2 and 3.

The exception is Alun Wyn Jones. I think he's the leader, he's the epicentre of this team, and he goes straight in to the engine room and you're hoping that he defies logic to do what he does best and consistently does.

ROG said he had tried to strike a good balance between the various components of a winning team, with a good divide between good ball carriers and good presences in the breakdown - but he said that the back three was the toughest area to choose.

Watson and Tadhg Beirne, you'll win a few penalties with them, with tough rugby - that's essential. The fact that Mako Vunipola is a threat every time he gets on the ball. It's a toss-up between two or three of the hookers. In the back-row, I think Curry - I saw him live against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final and he blew me away. Obviously we came across him at club level this year and he was incredible.

The backs are improving. They're big game players. Elliot Daly seems to me at 13...if Henshaw does not play Saturday, that could pose a different circumstance. The back three is just so hard to pick, because Josh Adams scores tries and they're gonna need to score a try or two I think.

Rees-Zammit has been very unlucky, high ball is very important to me and Liam Williams is different class at that. Anthony Watson seems to have unbelievable pace and I think Hogg is hurting and this could be the opportunity to relaunch him.

We'll know this time next week how Warren Gatland's Lions test XV lines up with ROG's, with the big question marks surrounding the return to fitness of Alun Wyn Jones and Robbie Henshaw, as well as the stacked options in the back row and back three.

SEE ALSO: Bryan Habana Calls For Changes To Lions Schedule Amid Civil Unrest In South Africa

Bryan Habana Lions

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