Follow all the latest news live as the British and Irish Lions’ 36-man squad is announced today. Head coach Warren Gatland will select 20 forwards and 16 backs and it is understood the players have not been told and will find out along with the rest of the world.
There are plenty of big talking points, like the captaincy, which is thought be going to Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones after leading his country to the Six Nations title in the spring. Even then though, Wyn Jones may not be guaranteed a starting berth in what is naturally a highly competitive squad pooling the resources of the four nations.
Another major decision is whether or not to include England’s Manu Tuilagi, the powerful centre who has struggled with an Achilles injury this season, but is set to return for the back end of Sale’s season and who carries a unique skillset with the ability to break what is sure to be a stubborn Springbok defence.
Harlequins duo Marcus Smith and Danny Care have been sensational this season and could be part of the squad, although the former has not yet played for England and would be making quite a leap to the Lions tour. Care’s chances have been boosted by the absence of Ben Youngs, who has ruled himself out to spend time with his young family.
Follow all the latest from the Lions’ squad announcement below.
Lions backs to sort out
Attack coach Gregor Townsend estimated that there was general agreement on about 20 of the squad after the first meeting of coaches at the Lensbury Hotel in Teddington, but that still leaves plenty to narrow down, particularly after an injury to George North. North’s absence leaves outside centre a problem position – will they risk taking Manu Tuilagi, just back in training after his most recent injury issue, but perhaps a neccessary threat? Does Henry Slade or Garry Ringrose travel as the fourth centre if Tuilagi goes? Might Elliot Daly’s versatility and showing on the last tour of New Zealand earn him the final outside backs place?
We’ll find out soon. Lee McKenzie’s arrival on stage is imminent.
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:48
Sam Simmonds gets the nod
An area of great strength, conversely, is the back row, but that does not mean selection is straightforward, with a surplus of outstanding opensides who have put their hands up to tour, but taking more than three would perhaps leave the Lions under-resourced elsewhere. Taulupe Faletau is a banker at number eight, but the back-up behind him has emerged as a hole to be filled after Billy Vunipola’s indifferent form over the last year or so.
That could have opened the door for Sam Simmonds of Exeter, European Player of the Year last year as his side secured a league and Champions Cup double, but not a favourite of Eddie Jones. He is of a very different mould to Vunipola or CJ Stander, another contender, slighter of frame and a more compactly explosive carrier slightly wider than tight-in basher. As we understand it, the Lions’ coaches have been convinced – it sounds like Simmonds may just make the 36 at the expense of Vunipola.
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:42
Does Care make the Lions squad?
The general strength of the countries that make up this side means that it is rare that the coach has a genuine problem position, but scrum-half perhaps shapes as an area of concern for Warren Gatland. Conor Murray is the presumed favourite for the starting jersey come South Africa and a virtual certainty to tour, but was not a sure pick for Ireland ahead of the Six Nations after being below his best last year. Gareth Davies is another likely tourist who can operate in a similar role to South Africa’s all-action menace Faf de Klerk, but has not seized the starting jersey for Wales as might have been expected a year or two ago.
Beyond those two, however, take your pick, with as many as eight or nine conceivable third scrum-halves for Gatland to choose between. Of those, you would suggest one of Tomos Williams, Ali Price and Danny Care as the likeliest, and Care’s resurgent form for free-flowing Harlequins has thrown a player out of international favour right to the forefront of selection debate. He might just get the nod, you know, as an experienced head who would make a strong alternative and fine tourist. It would be the 34-year-old’s first Lions call-up.
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:36
Lions squad announcement – what time does it start and how to watch?
In modern times, it is simpler than ever to follow this squad announcement, with the live stream carried on the Lions’ website, app, Youtube channel, Facebook AND Twitter, as well as official broadcaster Sky Sports covering it all in the necessary detail on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports News.
Lee McKenzie will guide everyone through the squad announcement, starting in about 20 minutes at 11:45 BST, with Jason Leonard, clad appropriately in logo tie and blazer, for company, along with a rotating panel of past and current Lions coaches and players. The timing for the naming of the captain and squad reads a little like a rural train schedule – Alun Wyn Jones’ likely coronation as captain should leave the swanky stage at 12:09, while the 35 other squad members will be confirmed from 12:28.
It is likely the squad is revealed alphabetically, though perhaps split into backs and forwards. A nervous wait may therefore be in store for Mako and Billy Vunipola, Duhan van der Merwe, and Tomos and Liam Williams.
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:27
Lions Squad Prediction
There are a number of rumours flying around this morning about who may be celebrating in an hour’s time, but the nature of this naming, with players finding out as fans do, means that it can be tougher to decipher precisely what Warren Gatland and the rest of his staff have settled upon. Here’s our final squad prediction based on what we have heard and seen, split into positions groups, though there is a degree of versatility in the back five of the pack and backline particularly:
Prop: Mako Vunipola (LH), Wyn Jones (LH), Cian Healy (LH), Tadhg Furlong (TH), Kyle Sinckler (TH), Andrew Porter (TH/LH)
Hooker: Jamie George, Ken Owens, Luke Cowan-Dickie
Lock: Alun Wyn Jones (c), Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson
Back Row: Taulupe Faletau, Tom Curry, Justin Tipuric, Hamish Watson, Sam Simmonds, Josh Navidi
Scrum-Half: Conor Murray, Gareth Davies, Danny Care
Fly-Half: Dan Biggar, Finn Russell, Owen Farrell
Centre: Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Davies, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi
Back Three: Stuart Hogg, Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Josh Adams, Louis Rees-Zammit, Elliot Daly
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:20
Gatland’s tricky selection
For Warren Gatland, this could be a little old hat now as he steps into the shoes of the Lions’ head coach for a third time, but he has never had to select a squad for a tour like this. It is anticipated that the players will be forced to remain in a strict bubble while in South Africa, and will meet an opposition that have not played test rugby since the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final.
Gatland, too, arrives a more distant figure, having left Wales for Waikato and a coaching role with the Chiefs from which he is currently on sabbatical to enable him to take charge of this party. Plenty to mull for the New Zealander, before he even begins to assess fitness and form.
Here’s a more detailed look at the conundrums he might be facing:
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:13
Lions squad announcement day!
After four years of talk of bankers, bolters, and predicted squads from anyone with even a vague connection to rugby, in a little less than an hour and a half Jason Leonard, Chairman of the British and Irish Lions, will reveal the 36 names chosen by Warren Gatland to tour South Africa this summer.
This quadrennial bringing together of four proud nations always provokes debate before, during, and after the squad reveal, but for the 50 or so players to have received letters suggesting they are in contention, the nervous waiting is almost over.
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:03
Jones set to lead the Lions
Alun Wyn Jones is expected to be named British and Irish Lions captain for the summer tour to South Africa.
The game’s most capped player with 157 Test appearances is clear favourite for the role ahead of closest rival Maro Itoje after leading Wales to success in the recent Six Nations.
It would be the 35-year-old’s fourth tour, although his role as skipper in the squad, announced by Warren Gatland today, would not guarantee a place in the Test team.
Harry Latham-Coyle6 May 2021 11:03
Follow all the latest updates…
Lawrence Ostlere6 May 2021 10:58