Jonathan Joseph earned Lions call with displays against Wales

Duncan Bech
Impressing | Jonathan Joseph in action for England against Wales at Six Nations: David Rogers/Getty Images

Jonathan Joseph was included in the British and Irish Lions squad bound for New Zealand after Warren Gatland decided a player who has caused Wales so much torment on his watch could not be overlooked.

Joseph was thought to have missed out due to Gatland's preference for the muscular gainline threat in midfield that has earned Ben Te'o, Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Davies selection for the 10-fixture tour that culminates in three Tests against the All Blacks.

But by opting for an expanded 41-man squad, Gatland was able to make room for England's rapid outside centre with dazzling footwork.

It was the havoc caused by Joseph against his Wales teams in the past that persuaded Gatland not to add him to a list of big-name English omissions that include Dylan Hartley, George Ford, Joe Launchbury, Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw.

"We decided on a number of positions yesterday (Tuesday). We had a good discussion about the midfield and I said to the rest of the coaches was that we can't leave Jonathan Joseph out," Gatland said.

"He has his points of difference of footwork and speed and the lines he ran against Scotland in the Six Nations were outstanding.

"He's got some weaknesses but when I look at it from a Welsh perspective, he's the one player who causes us so many problems when we play England because of his footwork and pace."

One month after England were crowned RBS 6 Nations champions for a second successive year, they were rewarded by supplying the largest portion of the Lions squad numbering 16 players.

Yet there are some significant absentees, the most notable of which sees their captain Hartley overlooked in favour of his international understudy Jamie George, who travels as one of three hookers alongside Rory Best and Ken Owens despite never having started a Test.

"We couldn't leave Jamie out. There's a potential for him to keep improving. He's done a good job coming off the bench and is playing well for Saracens," Gatland said.

"We felt there's continued improvement in him as a player and that Rory and Ken had great Six Nations.

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"There was always going to be a tough call and someone was always going to be disappointed."

Launchbury was another to slip out of contention in the ferociously competitive second row position despite emerging as England's stand-out performer during the Six Nations, winning two man of the match awards.

Jonny and Richie Gray were missing from Scotland's sparse two-man contingent, while Donnacha Ryan was also absent, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Iain Henderson and Alun Wyn Jones the preferred options.

Ultimately it came down to a straight choice between Launchbury or his England team-mate Lawes with Wasps director of rugby Dai Young "mystified" by the call to leave out his club captain.

"Again, it's the same thing. Joe is unlucky and we had a discussion about the second-rows," Gatland said.

"We weren't going to leave out Alun Wyn Jones or Maro Itoje. They were nailed on for us. And Iain Henderson has done an exceptional job for Ireland.

"We discussed the differences between Courtney and Joe. They're different players and if we'd left out Courtney we'd be asked the same questions."

Jones is suffering from a shoulder injury, as is scrum-half Conor Murray, and Gatland has insisted that both players demonstrate their fitness by playing for their clubs before they travel to New Zealand.

Owen Farrell is present as one of three fly-halves alongside Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar and Gatland believes the kicking tee is a department in which the Lions should be able to master over the All Blacks.

"We've got four or five of the world's best goal kickers going with us and if we're going to have an edge somewhere it could be in that area.

"Beauden Barrett is not kicking at the moment, his brother is for the Hurricanes and it may be the difference."