Who has he picked?
Gatland, the New Zealander at the helm of the Wales rugby union squad that triumphed in the past two Six Nations tournaments, has assembled his squad for the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia this summer. The 24-year-old Welshman Sam Warburton has been named captain of the 37-man party, and Gatland lauded him as the “the most successful captain in the northern hemisphere” over the past few years. “He’s an absolute professional who leads from the front and I believe he’ll do a fantastic job,” he said.
Who lost out?
Irish hooker Rory Best lost out to surprise inclusion Dylan Hartley, and England skipper Chris Robshaw failed to make the team. Jonny Wilkinson is another big name who won’t be making the trip Down Under. The 2003 World Cup hero told Gatland he was committed to his club Toulon and admitted his fitness levels might not be up to scratch. “He appreciated the call, but he said he’s struggling with his body and managing himself week to week. I think physically he would struggle to do a tour,” the coach said. In all, 15 Welsh players made the squad – the biggest Welsh contingent in more than 30 years. Accompanying them are ten players from England, nine from Ireland and three from Scotland.
A bit biased, no?
The Australian media was quick to dub the Lions squad as a “slab of red meat”, saying Gatland’s team would likely adopt the tried-and-tested Welsh tactic of physically overpowering the opposition. The Australian newspaper warned rugby fans that “British and Irish Lions’ candy floss rugby will be hard-coated”. There had been some controversy earlier this year when he spoke of the “circus that was created” around England in the 2011 World Cup, suggesting he might limit his selections from the England squad.
Will there be a “circus” this time around?
For people who don’t really like rugby, 2011 was brilliant. In a sensational off-field performance from the England squad, Mike Tindall was photographed on a wild night out, Manu Tuilagi was fined for wearing a sponsored mouthguard and three players were reprimanded for making lewd comments to a hotel worker. Sadly, their talents on the pitch left a lot to be desired. In a bid to keep people’s attention on the game itself, the Lions have been ordered to follow strict social media protocol.