Ire of the Irish as Lions coach Gatland is called ‘self-indulgent'

Ire of the Irish as Lions coach Gatland is called ‘self-indulgent'

Indignation and a hint of selection bias. And also some insults going the way of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland after his team announcement for the tour to South Africa.

That is the gist of Irish Independent scribe Eamonn Sweeney’s column, who berates Gatland for the lowest Irish representation in a Lions side for 20 years.

Pointing out some of the big names Sweeney feels should have been selected, he calls Gatland’s selection “not just an insult to Irish rugby, it’s an insult to the intelligence” in his introduction.

He goes on to accuse Gatland of self-indulgence in his team selection. ”It’s weird combination of hubris and whimsicality suggests the New Zealander is so convinced of victory over a South African team which hasn’t played since 2019 he feels able to indulge himself.”

There are eight Irish players in the squad and Sweeney is particularly upset by the non-selection of Irish flyhalf and captain Johnny Sexton and lock James Ryan, describing selected lock Courtney Laws as 'past his best' and calling Jonny Hill’s selection 'baffling'.

His view is that Sexton was “the best outhalf available to the Lions”.

Selected bias is hinted at with Sweeney writing that “the absence of an Irish input in the selection panel cost us.”

He points out that “Ireland’s eight player representation is our lowest since 2001. Making this particularly galling is that England have more than anyone else after a year in which they suffered comprehensive defeats against the other three home nations."

Sweeney agrees with many other critics in questioning Gatland’s choice of Elliot Daly, Chris Harris and Bundee Aki at centre ahead of Henry Slade, Jonathan Davies and Garry Ringrose.

His view is that Sexton was “the best outhalf available to the Lions”.