Gregor Townsend has revealed that the Lions coaching squad used games as far back as the 2019 Rugby World Cup when it came to making selection decisions.
There were a number of surprise inclusions in this year’s British and Irish Lions squad, as players such as Courtney Lawes were selected despite having a lack of game time in recent months.
Lions attack coach Townsend was speaking to The Telegraph about how he and his fellow coaches decided on the squad they should bring to South Africa. He revealed that World Cup games including the Springboks were examined extensively.
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“They were key games given the opposition was South African but also the England vs New Zealand game was one of the best games a country has played over the last two or three years,” Townsend said.
“There was a lot of work that went into the selection process. Obviously, we felt a big responsibility to do everyone justice, to watch the games and to find out more about them and to make that selection discussion and decision as robust as possible.”
‘I watched Wales vs France at least three times.’
As Scotland head coach, Townsend was already familiar with his own player’s performances in recent test matches, as was Lions and Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy.
As a result, Townsend spent much time looking at the other countries’ games in this year’s Six Nations, as well as the crucial matches in the Heineken Champions Cup and domestic club competitions.
“Once Steve and I were confirmed (last month), it was about looking at the games we hadn’t watched as much,” Townsend explained.
“I think I watched the Wales vs France game at least three times. But also the likes of Leinster, Munster, obviously the European games, games in England.
“We have watched a lot of English rugby, because we’ve got a lot of Scots who play in England so when you are watching Cameron Redpath play for Bath, you are also seeing Ben Spencer and Anthony Watson.”
The Lions squad that was announced last week is perhaps the most evenly-balanced in history in regards to nationality, but there was still no shortage of controversial selections.