Iain Henderson Makes Big Warren Gatland Lions Claim That A Lot Of People Will Agree With

Jason Hennessy

Jason Hennessy

Jason is the editor here at RugbyLAD and a proud Limerick man.
Jason Hennessy

Familiarity over form.

No matter what way you look at it the British and Irish Lions’ 2021 tour of South Africa will be remembered as a failure and a huge opportunity lost.

Warren Gatland’s men impressed in the build-up games before taking a 1-0 series lead after the first before ultimately losing the series 2-1 to the reigning world champions thanks to a last-minute kick from Morne Steyn.

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The Boks had barely kicked a ball since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, racking up just 80 minutes of rugby against a lowly Georgia team before playing an internal game and were far from at their best.

The Lions barely fired a shot in the series and were criticised for their tactics with the series very much there for the taking. A lot of people reckon had Gatland picked his Test team on form, rather than familiarity.

Iain Henderson played a key role in the build-up to the series, captaining the Lions against the Sharks but didn’t play a minute of Test rugby, despite being one of the form players in the squad. Speaking on BBC Sport NI’s Ulster Rugby Show, the Ulster lock feels that Gatland did not reward form.

“I would tend to agree with that statement,” Henderson said when asked if Gatland picked on familiarity rather than form.

“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.”

Henderson added that he spoke to Gatland ahead of the third Test.

“He told me I had trained really well, played really well and unfortunately it just didn’t work out the way I wanted it to be,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be one to go nagging coaches. In my opinion, I go about my business and do what I can on the training pitch.

“I kind of feel among a lot of the staff and squad they felt similarly, but at the end of the day it’s the top dog’s decision and I wasn’t there.”