The British Lions XV that won’t be going Down Under
This Lions XV won’t be travelling Down Under, but could well have given Australia a run for their money.
1) Andrew Sheridan – The Aussies will have been delighted by the omission of a man who has caused them so many problems in the past. He traveled with the Lions in 2005 and 2009, but ruled himself out this year. His Toulon understudy, Gethin Jenkins, tours.
2) Rory Best – The Irish Hooker had a poor Six Nations that ended his touring chances. However, he would have offered real leadership having captained Ireland and Ulster previously. Arguably got the better of the selected Dylan Hartley when Ulster faced Northampton in the Heineken Cup.
3) Euan Murray – With tight-head selections Dan Cole and Adam Jones both top-class scrummagers, Murray was the victim of Matt Stevens’ superior dynamism away from the set piece. Travelled with the Lions to South Africa in 2009 and so would have offered vital experience.
4) Joe Launchbury – The 21-year-old burst onto the scene in August and was nominated for the European Player of the Year. He ultimately suffered an underwhelming Six Nations, and Paul O’Connoll’s return to form and fitness meant there was no spot for the promising Wasps youngster.
5) Donnacha Ryan– Before the Six Nations looked likely to tour but a loss of form and the outstanding Welsh combination of Ian Evans and Alun Wyn Jones mean the Munster enforcer misses out.
6) Ryan Jones – A two-tour veteran and popular member of the Wales setup, captained the midweek team with distinction in 2005. Missed out at the expense of superior athlete Tom Croft and destructive compatriot Dan Lydiate.
7) Chris Robshaw – As Stuart Barnes said, probably the unluckiest player in the British Isles. Robshaw led England to a famous victory over the All Blacks in the Autumn opposite IRB World Player of the Year Richie McCaw. Still has a good chance of a replacement call-up though, with seven back-rowers in the squad.
8) Ben Morgan – A destructive ball-carrier who was unlucky to miss out. Morgan has had his problems with injuries which meant that he missed the Six Nations, but has since been brilliant for Gloucester. Could have been a real game changer off the bench had he travelled.
9) Danny Care – The Harlequins man has the spark that is arguably missing from the final squad, and has been a key part of his club’s solid Aviva Premiership season – so much so that he has been nominated for the league’s player of the year accolade.
10) Jonny Wilkinson – The Toulon fly half turned down the opportunity to travel to Australia, sighting the need to allow younger players their chance. His vast experience and blistering recent form may yet see him head Down Under if injures hamper the squad.
11) Simon Zebo – The Munster wing has enjoyed a fantastic season that has seen him shortlisted for the IRUPA player of the year award. He has developed immensely under the stewardship of All-Blacks legend Dougie Hewlett and only just missed out to Sean Maitland.
12) Luke Marshall – Marshall made his Ireland debut just this February and has impressed in his three caps so far with his creative style of play. The 22-year-old is unfortunate to be stuck behind the legendary Brian O’Driscoll and Manu Tuilagi.
13) Brad Barritt – Barritt has become one of the first names on Stuart Lancaster’s team sheet and has now racked up 16 appearances in an England shirt. His defensive game is second to none, but a lack of flair with the ball in hand would seem to have kept him at home.
14) Christian Wade – Tipped to be this year’s bolter, and would add an element of the unknown to Gatland’s squad. The Wasps winger has frightening pace, and despite being uncapped at international level could have provided a different option in the southern hemisphere.
15) Lee Byrne – The experienced Welshman has been a rock for Heineken Cup finalists Clermont this term, missing out simply because of the strength of the full backs in this Lions squad. With the trio of Leigh Halfpenny, Stuart Hogg and Rob Kearney battling over the number 15 jersey, Byrne may be paying the price for playing his club rugby in France.