Matt Dawson: Johnny Sexton hasn’t been at the races

Sexton

“Sexton has not been at the races.”

Former England and Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson has backed Warren Gatland’s decision to leave Johnny Sexton out of his 37-man squad.

There were a number of eyebrow-raising selections in Thursday’s British and Irish Lions squad announcement, with the exclusion of Ireland captain Sexton perhaps the most high-profile of all.

Dawson, who toured with the Lions in 1997, 2001 and 2005, wrote in his column for the BBC that he believes Sexton hasn’t shown enough form to warrant his selection for this year’s series with the Springboks.

Matt Dawson on Johnny Sexton.

“In a Lions squad you have got to have players who can play in different positions and that may be one of the reasons Farrell was included ahead of Ireland’s Johnny Sexton,” Dawson said.

“Sexton has not been at the races. I know him and Conor Murray played well against England in the Six Nations but physically he goes off a lot with his injuries. He has not been as sharp as he has been in the last three or four years.”

‘You have to match South Africa physically.’

Dawson, who played under Gatland for a season at Wasps, believes his former head coach has done a “fantastic” job in regards to finding the right balance in his squad.

Sexton’s omission is far from the only surprising selection that has been made, as the likes of Ireland duo Bundee Aki and Jack Conan were included, while experienced England prop Kyle Sinckler has missed out.

There were plenty of surprising calls in the centres, as Wales’ Jonathan Davies, England’s Henry Slade and Ireland’s Garry Ringrose were all excluded, but Dawson believes Gatland’s selection are largely as a result of the physical gameplan the Springboks will employ.

“The squad named by Gatland is very confrontational, which I think is probably right,” Dawson commented.

“The final was the biggest game South Africa had had for many years and they psyched themselves up into a frenzy that England could not match.

“The creativity that England showed in the quarter and semi-finals proved to be negated quickly by a physical and able South African team.

“At the very least you have to match South Africa physically – that is the starting point. So I can understand why Gatland has chosen those 37 players, particularly in the backs.”

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