Rugby legends across Britain and Ireland have given their first reactions to the naming of the Lions squad for this summer’s tour of South Africa.
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has made some massive decisions in his squad, as a number of expected tourists such as Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and England prop Kyle Sinckler have missed out.
While there have certainly been a number of shock exclusions, there are also a few surprising inclusions such as Ireland’s Bundee Aki and Jack Conan.
What do we make of it???! Huge for Conan & Bundee… pic.twitter.com/5EpQL6TaY0
— Brian O’Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) May 6, 2021
Ireland and Lions legend Brian O’Driscoll described the Irish duo’s inclusion as “huge” as both men had rarely featured in various pundits’ predicted squads.
There was also plenty of joy at the naming of England outcast Sam Simmonds, who hasn’t played international rugby since 2018.
The Exeter Chiefs number eight is the top try scorer in this season’s Gallagher Premiership, and is the only man in the squad who earned selection solely based on his performances at club level.
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) May 6, 2021
Tadhg Beirne makes the Lions five years after being released by Leinster.
Ireland and Leinster legend Gordon D’Arcy believes the inclusion of Tadhg Beirne is just as noteworthy as Simmonds’ selection, based on the Munster forward’s unorthodox career.
The Kildare man was released by Leinster at the age of 24 after playing just four times for his native province, but was picked up by the Scarlets the following season.
Beirne proved to be a massive success at the Scarlets, as he won the Pro12 title with the Welsh side less than a year after he had been released by Leinster. The versatile forward returned to Ireland to join Munster in 2018 and made his international debut at the age of 26.
Echo that sentiment with a green lens for Tadhg Beirne
— Gordon D’Arcy (@Gordonwdarcy) May 6, 2021
Disappointment for Keith Earls.
Beirne’s Munster teammate Keith Earls wasn’t so lucky though, as the veteran Ireland winger missed out on the chance to tour South Africa again.
Earls wasn’t selected by Gatland in the last two tours to New Zealand and Australia, although many had thought the Limerick man was in with a chance after his impressive performances in the Six Nations.
Simon Zebo was clearly disappointed with Earls’ exclusion, taking to Twitter to say he felt sorry for his former teammate after missing out on the chance to tour South Africa for a second time.
— Simon Zebo (@SimonZebo) May 6, 2021
Plenty to appreciate for Scottish fans.
Scotland fans are perhaps the happiest of all the four nations’ supporters, as eight Scots were selected by Gatland, which is the largest Scottish Lions contingent of the professional era.
Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Hamish Watson were all expected to be named in Gatland’s squad, but the selection of the likes of Ali Price and Chris Harris came as a surprise to many.
Buzzing for the Scotland lads.
— Jim Hamilton (@jimhamilton4) May 6, 2021
Former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton was just one of many fans that was delighted to see such a healthy contingent of Scottish players named to travel to South Africa this summer.