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20th Jul 2022

Warren Gatland selects five England stars in his strongest Lions XV, right now

Patrick McCarry


“He offers an attacking threat, and scores tries”

Warren Gatland has now been British & Irish Lions head coach on three occasions, and assistant on the 2009 tour, and is the frontrunner to lead the Lions again in 2025 [feels ages away, right?].

Being tasked as the head coach to pick a squad of players that he must select from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales is one that comes with the obvious pitfall of not being able to please everyone.

Last summer, though, Gatland managed to finally win over the long-suffering Scottish fans by selecting eight of their players in his initial 37-man squad for the South Africa tour. That left 29 spots for England, Ireland and Wales, the 2021 Six Nations champions.

England [11] and Wales [10] shared 21 of those picks, leaving Ireland with only eight. Even though England had the biggest representation, some fans grumbled that the likes of Danny Care, Marcus Smith, Sam Underhill, Kyle Sinckler and Henry Slade missed out.


‘At the end of the day, selection is just opinion’ – Warren Gatland

Back in his native New Zealand and a regular columnist with The Telegraph, Warren Gatland has done what many of us rugby nuts do in the 12 to 18 months leading up to a Lions Tour – selected his best XV.

On this occasion, Gatland has done so three years in advance of the next tour, to Australia, and hopped in some replacements for good measure.

The starting team is reflective of how the 2021/22 rugby season ended, with Ireland beating the All Blacks, with nine of Andy Farrell’s men in the XV. Gatland notes that this is a hypothetical match-day Lions squad for a one-off game, as opposed to a tour.

To that end, the Kiwi has selected a couple of combinations from the same country – such as in the half-backs and second row. From an Irish perspective, Gatland’s most interesting comments are on James Lowe – “We didn’t take him to South Africa last year because of the number of defensive errors he was making” – and Johnny Sexton – “I still probably ask myself now whether it was the right decision to leave him at home [in 2021].”

Gatland has gone for Owen Farrell as his inside centre and has Marcus Smith, who, like Kyle Sinckler, was a late touring call-up in 2021. On his captain, Gatland states:

“I have been so impressed with Courtney… he is another who has shown maturity, calmness and leadership, and is an extra line-out option. The biggest compliment I can pay to Courtney is that I would make him my captain with some great leaders to support him.”

Back to his pre-2021 for, and with little reason to argue otherwise, Gatland has no Scots in his starting XV, but two on the bench. Josh Adams is the sole Welsh starter with Taulupe Faletau on the bench. England have four starters, and three more on the bench.


15. Freddie Steward (England)
14. Josh Adams (Wales)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
12. Owen Farrell (England)
11. James Lowe (Ireland)
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland)

1. Ellis Genge (England)
2. Jamie George (England)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
5. James Ryan (Ireland)
6. Courtney Lawes (England)
7. Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
8. Caelan Doris (Ireland)

REPLACEMENTS: Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter, Zander Fagerson, Maro Itoje, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Marcus Smith, Jack Nowell.

You can read that full article, and the reasonings of Warren Gatland here. Some form of vindication for the likes of Genge, Farrell, Sexton and Ryan but one hopes the Irish lads are on a sandy beach somewhere, right now, and content enough with series wins against the Wallabies and All Blacks.

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