These are your morning headlines for Friday, May 7.
Warburton admits his Lions ‘surprise’
Former British Lions captain Sam Warburton admits he was left surprised on more than one occasion watching Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad being revealed on TV.
There were big talking points across the spectrum when Jason Leonard announced the news on TV – with Warburton watching on like the rest of the rugby world.
The two-time tour skipper penned in his Times column : “There were certainly some surprises when Jason Leonard read out the British & Irish Lions squad.
“It was obviously a very different experience for me, having been on the past two tours, now being like every other fan across the country at home waiting to find out who had been selected. I must admit that I did show my surprise to the television in front of me on at least one occasion.”
Like others, Warburton raised an eyebrow over the omission of Wales pair Josh Navidi and Jonathan Davies from the final party.
On Navidi, he said: “I think it must have been a close call between Conan and Josh Navidi (who can play anywhere across the back row including No 8), and Conan’s greater game-time of late must have held sway because I know how much Gatland rates Navidi.
“Sam Underhill must be another affected because of his lack of game-time. I’m pretty sure that if they had been fully fit throughout this year, and especially the Six Nations, Gatland would have loved to have them in his squad.”
And in reference to centre Davies, Warburton said the absence of the Scarlets man – along with Henry Slade and Garry Ringrose – was not wholly unexpected.
“I would never have envisaged a squad missing all of Jonathan Davies, Henry Slade and Garry Ringrose, but I suppose all of them will look at it and realise that they probably have not done quite enough,” he added.
“Gatland has been ruthless in that respect, as he has with Sexton at fly half.”
Russell’s Paris performance sealed it – Gatland
Warren Gatland revealed it was Finn Russell’s Six Nations performance in France that sealed his place on the plane.
The debate over which No.10s Gatland would pick for this tour has raged for some time, with Sexton the unlucky man to miss out.
And the head coach explained that it was Russell’s masterclass for Scotland in the Paris rain which convinced him of his inclusion.
“We’ve got differences with our 10s and I think that was important,” Gatland said.
“The best game Finn played in the Six Nations was against France and what impressed me on that occasion was his game management, the way he controlled the game. He turned France around, put them under pressure and moved the ball when the opportunities came.
“He’s got so much more of a balanced game now in terms of when to run and when to kick. We understand that there are some real quality 10s out there.
“I wanted us to send a message, particularly to Finn, that we back him and we have confidence in him to put pressure on the other 10s and put his hand up for a Test side.
“I thought that was a really important message for me to be able to deliver to someone like Finn.
“We understand about Johnny Sexton, how disappointed he may be and what a great player he is but when it came down to it – it wasn’t anything to do with concussion I can promise you that – but it was just looking at the durability and how tough South Africa will be.
“It was me sending the right message to the 10s selected that we back you and we’re going to pick you from the start because you’re so important to us.
“For them to come in with that confidence and self-belief is important to me.”
Biggar ‘over the moon’
Wales fly-half Dan Biggar is one of 10 Welshman selected by Gatland to head south this summer.
Speaking after he was informed of his selection – surrounded by the whole Northampton squad – Biggar revealed he was “over the moon” with his spot on the plane.
“I’m really over the moon and just really proud for myself, family, but also proud to represent this club for the Lions,” he said.
“This club has been brilliant for me and I feel like a I’ve become a better player since arriving here so yeah, I’m over the moon and over the moon to be recognised for the club as well.”
When asked about coach Chris Boyd’s public announcement to the squad at the end of Northampton training, Biggar said: “I was very embarrassed and the worst thing is we dropped the next couple of balls in the next couple plays, so I don’t think Boydy will be doing that again!
“I’ve loved my time here. I feel like I’ve improved every single game and every training session, every meeting we have and Sam Vesty and Chris in particular have been absolutely brilliant in terms of challenging my skills, giving me the ability to have the confidence to showcase my ability.
“I’m just in a really good place coming to work and get better every day.
“We’ve got a young group who are hungry and I think that’s keeping me going as well at a little bit of an older age compared to the rest of the squad, so keeping me hungry, feeling young and just trying to keep up with the talent we’ve got has been brilliant.”
The new Lions kit is on sale now at Canterbury for £75 for the ‘pro’ version. It is also on sale on the official Lions store for the same price.
Special 2021 graphics t-shirts have been launched for the tour. They are on sale priced at £29 and come in five colours to represent the red of the Lions shirt and Wales, and the colours of the other nations. They are available here.
Sinckler reacts to omission
England star Kyle Sinckler says he is “honestly gutted not to be involved” after surprisingly missing out on selection.
The tighthead took to Twitter to reveal his feelings following Gatland’s decision to over him. The Kiwi and his team selectors opted for Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter, and Scotland’s Zander Fagerson over the Bristol Bears man.
Sinckler was a tourist four years ago but will have to make do with a watching brief this time around.
“Honestly gutted not to be involved. Appreciate the messages of support. Not a time to feel sorry for myself and blame others. Let’s get behind the squad, wishing the boys all the best,” he wrote.
Marler’s Line of Duty jibe at Gatland’s squad
Joe Marler aimed a Line of Duty jibe at Gatland’s squad announcement when his touring party was revealed.
England man Marler had already stated that he was not included on the long list of 50-odd players contacted by Gatland to ascertain their availability before the announcement.
Marler missed the Six Nations for family reasons and the Harlequins prop is disappointed that he will not be touring with the Lions for a second time having been present in New Zealand four years ago.
But following the announcement, Marler tweeted: “Line Of Duty Finale vibe???”
The tweet was in reference to the popular BBC One drama which aired its finale last weekend, to mixed – at best – reviews.
Former Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald was also left nonplussed by the Kiwi’s squad, tweeting: “Some absolute baffling calls there.”