The New Zealand Media Reacts To Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions Squad
Can this squad cause the All Blacks problems?
By now New Zealand has finally woken up and had had a chance to digest Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions squad.
Over here the headlines have been grabbed by Joe Launchbury and Dylan Hartley’s omissions of course the snubbing of the Scottish once again. In New Zealand the reaction has been mainly positive, with this summer’s opponents of the belief that Gatland did a good job of picking his squad.
The NZ Herald open up their piece by praising Gatland’s selection and captaincy choice.
Big pats on the back will be coming for Warren Gatland after he unveiled a Lions squad that has equal parts conservatism, boldness, adventure and graft.
He’s picked a captain he knows and trusts and one with previous experience and with the exception of the Scots, who were expecting next to nothing after such an outcome had been heavily flagged, Gatland has balanced his nationalities in proportions that should prevent accusations of favouritism.
Given the physical edge in the pack, he’s clearly committed to his belief that to win in New Zealand, the Lions need men with mental resilience and an attitude that says they will never step back.
They’re especially impressed with the front five.
They certainly have a lot of bases covered. There’s no question they are going to be able to scrummage. Tick that one now.
Irishman Tadhg Furlong put a bit of heat on the All Blacks last November and looks well equipped to anchor any scrum from tighthead.
Their lineout is just as certain to be a reliable bit of machinery. They have big, athletic locks and hookers with good core skills. It’s not a worry for them – Alun Wyn-Jones, Iain Henderson and Maro Itoje are all ball winners.
The big issue for them however is the creativity, or lack of it. This is an issue that has been raised here also. No Zebo, no Ringrose.
It all looks so good for the Lions, except for one missing piece perhaps- their squad lacks creative, intuitive footballers with the skills and imagination to ignite their attacking game?
Their midfield options look exceptionally dry: functional sorts who will bang up the middle and take a bit of tackling. Being direct is fine, but it’s not enough in itself to really trouble the All Blacks.
England’s Jonathan Joseph possesses the skills and speed that might have the All Blacks concerned and George North can play, really play as the All Blacks discovered in the first test against Wales last June.
But that’s it. The rest of the backs don’t appear to carry that touch of magic the Lions are going to need to beat the All Blacks twice. Where is their Beauden Barrett? Who is going to spark them the way Ben Smith does the All Blacks? Do they have a player like Sonny Bill Williams in their midst?
Presumably Gatland thinks he’s going to get that touch of SBW-type – magic, that little bit of x-factor he wants from his wild card selection, Ben Te’o.
Next up it’s over to stuff.co.nz, who think the lack of Scots could cause issues in the squad.
On paper, Warren Gatland has selected a quality British and Irish Lions squad capable of playing a diverse brand of rugby and seriously challenging the All Blacks. But his decision, and that of Lions management, to include just two Scots threatens to create factions and erode harmony before the tourists even board the plane to New Zealand in June.
But arguably the biggest talking point came with Galtand selecting just two Scottish players – fullback Stuart Hogg, and American-born wing Tommy Seymour. For the first time since the initial Lions tour in 1908, not one Scottish forward made the cut; lock Jonny Gray likely to be most aggrieved. More New Zealanders – Jared Payne the surprise call-up – were included.
Some valid points from both outlets.