Readers' Lions squad: Warren Gatland springs surprises - but not all were unexpected

·9-min read
Lions composite
Lions composite

Warren Gatland has named his 37-man British and Irish Lions squad for the summer tour to South Africa, ending one of the biggest unanswered questions of the sporting calendar.

Having been widely expected to select a 36-man squad to face the reigning world champions, Gatland threw in a selection curveball minutes before the players’ names were read out by expanding it to 37 players, such was the difficulty he and his coaches endured in whittling down the names.

The one name that wasn’t in doubt though was that of the tour skipper, with Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones named captain as had been widely expected, giving the honour to the record 157-cap second row for the first time outright.

British and Irish Lions chairman Jason Leonard then began the task of listing the 36 names who would join Jones, with several surprise names included and even more shocks among those who missed out.

England trio Billy Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler and Jonny May were all among those to be left out, as was Ireland’s veteran fly-half Johnny Sexton and his club and country colleague James Ryan.

Among the surprise names included in the squad were England’s Jonny Hill, the Exeter lock who only made his international debut last October, and Irish centre Bundee Aki, who by all accounts had not been on anyone’s radar apart from that of those who mattered most, while England exile Sam Simmonds was also named after being revealed to have received the golden call-up by Telegraph Sport on Wednesday.

After selecting your own squad, Telegraph Sport readers were able to pick the bones out of the afternoon’s drama and see how close their team got to Gatland’, with 28 names appearing among both squads. Our writers have also selected their squad over the last week, although no one was able to get close to matching the actual touring party once the announcement came.

The Telegraph Readers' squad

Props: Wyn Jones (Wales), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Joe Marler (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Zander Fagerson (Scotland)

Hookers: Ken Owens (Wales), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Jamie George (England)

Locks: Maro Itoje (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), James Ryan (Ireland)

Back row: Tom Curry (England), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Sam Simmonds (England), Josh Navidi (Wales)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Danny Care (England), Gareth Davies/Ali Price (Wales/Scotland)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland), Owen Farrell (England)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Henry Slade (England), Chris Harris (Scotland), Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Back three: Anthony Watson (England), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Josh Adams (Wales), Jack Nowell (England)

Mick Cleary's squad

Props: Wyn Jones (Wales), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Mako Vunipola (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Zander Fagerson (Scotland)

Hookers: Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Jamie George (England), Ken Owens (Wales)

Locks: Maro Itoje (England), James Ryan (Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

Back row: Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England), Tom Curry (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), CJ Stander (Ireland)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Danny Care (England), Tomos Williams (Wales)

Fly-halves: Finn Russell (Scotland), Owen Farrell (England), Dan Biggar (Wales)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Elliot Daly (England)

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Liam Williams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Jonny May (England), Jack Nowell (England)

Gavin Mairs's squad

Props: Mako Vunipola (England) Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Wyn Jones (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Andrew Porter (Ireland)

Hookers: Jamie George (England), Ken Owens (Wales), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)

Locks: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Maro Itoje (England), James Ryan (Ireland), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland) and Iain Henderson (Ireland)

Back row: Justin Tipuric (Wales), Tom Curry (England), Sam Underhill (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Gareth Davies (Wales), Danny Care (England)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Garry Ringrose (Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England)

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Liam Williams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Elliot Daly (England), Jack Nowell (England), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)

Daniel Schofield's squad

Props: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Wyn Jones (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Mako Vunipola (England), Andrew Porter (Ireland)

Hookers: Ken Owens (Wales), Jamie George (England), Alfie Barbeary (England)

Locks: Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), James Ryan (Ireland), Jonny Gray (Scotland)

Back row: Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tom Curry (England), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Jack Conan (Ireland), Courtney Lawes (England)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Danny Care (England), Gareth Davies (Wales)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland), Owen Farrell (England)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Henry Slade (England), Gary Ringrose (Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Liam Williams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Josh Adams (Wales), Jonny May (England)

Charles Richardson's squad

Props: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Mako Vunipola (England), Kyle Sinckler (England), Joe Marler (England), Wyn Jones (Wales), Will Stuart (England)

Hookers: Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Ken Owens (Wales), George Turner (Scotland)

Locks: Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), James Ryan (Ireland), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

Back row: Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tom Curry (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Matt Fagerson (Scotland), Billy Vunipola (England), Josh Navidi (Wales)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Ben Spencer (England), Tomos Williams (Wales)

Fly-halves: Finn Russell (Scotland), Owen Farrell (England), Dan Biggar (Wales)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Henry Slade (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Garry Ringrose (Ireland)

Back three: Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), Liam Williams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Jonny May (England), Jack Nowell (England)

Tom Cary's squad

Props: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Wyn Jones (Wales), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Andrew Porter (Ireland), Mako Vunipola (England)

Hookers: Ken Owens (Wales), Jamie George (England), George Turner (Scotland)

Locks: Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), James Ryan (Ireland), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

Back row: Tom Curry (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Sam Underhill (England), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Jack Conan (Ireland)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Ali Price (Scotland), Danny Care (England)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland), Owen Farrell (England)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Garry Ringrose (Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England)

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Liam Williams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Jonny May (England), Josh Adams (Wales)

Ben Coles's squad

Props: Mako Vunipola (England), Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Wyn Jones (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Andrew Porter (Ireland)

Hookers: Jamie George (England), Ken Owens (Wales), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)

Locks: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), James Ryan (Ireland)

Back row: Tom Curry (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Josh Navidi (Wales), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Hamish Watson (Scotland)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Ali Price (Scotland), Tomos Williams (Wales)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Finn Russell (Scotland)

Centres: Jonathan Davies (Wales), Chris Harris (Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Garry Ringrose (Ireland)

Back three: Josh Adams (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), Anthony Watson (England), Liam Williams (Wales)

James Corrigan's squad

Props: Mako Vunipola (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Wyn Jones (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), Andrew Porter (Ireland), Zander Fagerson (Scotland)

Hookers: Ken Owens (Wales), George Turner (Scotland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)

Locks: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Maro Itoje (England), James Ryan (Ireland), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Courtney Lawes (England)

Back row: CJ Stander (Ireland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tom Curry (England), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Josh Navidi (Wales), Hamish Watson (Scotland)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Tomos Williams (Wales), Danny Care (England)

Fly-halves: Johnny Sexton (Ireland), Dan Biggar (Wales), Finn Russell (Scotland)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England), Manu Tuilagi (England) Gary Ringrose (Ireland)

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Liam Williams (Wales), Josh Adams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Elliott Daly (England)

Richard Bath's squad

Props: Wyn Jones (Wales), Joe Marler (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Zander Fagerson (Scotland)

Hookers: Ken Owens (Wales), Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), Fraser Brown (Scotland)

Locks: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Maro Itoje (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), James Ryan (Ireland), Jonny Gray (Scotland)

Back row: Tom Curry (England), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), CJ Stander (Ireland)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland), Gareth Davies (Wales), Danny Care (England)

Fly-halves: Finn Russell (Scotland), Dan Biggar (Wales), Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

Centres: Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Garry Ringrose

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Scotland) , Anthony Watson (England), Liam Williams (Wales), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

Analysis: popular choice does not match Gatland's thinking
Henshaw - GETTY
Henshaw - GETTY

Only 12 names were selected by every reader, proving how difficult a task it is to select the right players for the Springboks series.

In the front row, four players cropped up each time in the form of Welsh loose head prop Wyn Jones and Ireland’s tighthead Tadhg Furlong, with hookers Ken Owens and Luke Cowan-Dickie also ever-present.

There were two locks who were deemed undroppable by readers - but possibly not the two you may be thinking of as Ireland’s Iain Henderson featured alongside Maro Itoje more than captain-elect Alun Wyn Jones.

In the back row, three names featured among everyone’s selection as Wales duo Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau were joined by England flanker Tom Curry - a tasty trio who could well start the Test series together.

The half-backs have been pinpointed as problem positions already, which is perhaps why there was not a single name that featured unilaterally in the No 9 or No 10 shirt, but a standout centre did emerge in the form of Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw.

And two players who stood out among the six back-three selections appear to be your nailed-on Test starters in the shape of England wing Anthony Watson and Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg.

Interestingly, readers are backing Danny Care as the Lions bolter, while Owen Farrell makes the cut as an out-and-out fly-half in place of Johnny Sexton, despite the England captain’s form languishing behind his Irish counterpart’s in the Six Nations this year. The other surprise omission came in Billy Vunipola, with the English No 8 not picking up a single selection, such has been his fall from grace this season.