Iain Henderson has argued that Warren Gatland didn’t select players based on their form during the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.
Ireland and Ulster lock Henderson toured with the Lions for a second time this summer, although the 29-year-old is yet to win a test cap for the touring side, as Alun Wyn Jones, Maro Itoje, Tadhg Beirne and Adam Beard were all selected ahead of him in the second row against the Springboks.
Henderson was speaking on BBC Sport NI’s Ulster Rugby Show and argued that Lions head coach Gatland did not select players based on their form on tour, although he didn’t argue that he deserved to play in any of the three tests.
Iain Henderson on Warren Gatland’s Lions selections.
“I would tend to agree with that statement [that Gatland didn’t pick on form],” he said.
“Courtney Lawes, for example, hadn’t played a lot of rugby, was injured going in, missed a lot of rugby, comes in and starts all three tests.
“Don’t get me wrong, Courtney is a class player and he probably deserved to be playing, but that would lead you to believe that he [Gatland] wasn’t picking on who was on form at the stage, because Courtney had already banked his form from before.”
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The Lions’ tactics against South Africa.
The Lions racked up big scores against the South African club teams they played in the warm-up games, but they were largely nullified in attack in the game against South Africa ‘A’ and the test series against the Springboks.
Henderson suggested that the one-sided victories the Lions recorded in the warm-up games led them to believe their game plan was working, which ultimately ended up playing into the Springboks’ hands.
“You could play South Africa’s game plan against the Sharks or someone like that and whenever you get however many points up, you’re winning the 50-50s, the slap-downs become a 50m try and all of a sudden people go ‘well they’re playing free-flowing rugby today’,” Henderson commented.
“Before you know it, you’re trying to beat South Africa at their own game. South Africa just won a World Cup doing their own game. They’re incredible at it.
“Falling into what they’re incredibly good at I think is something a team probably shouldn’t try to do playing a team like that.”