ALL across these islands this day there will be argument and division even among good friends, all due to the whims of one person who wants to impose a way ahead that not everyone wants.
Yes, it’s time for the announcement of the squad for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. Warren Gatland is going to annoy entire nations no matter who he chooses, and though he is a considerably less divisive figure than Theresa May, some of his choices will have a shock value, though probably not as upsetting as May’s wee bombshell yesterday.
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For instance, certain newspapers have been confidently predicting that Gatland will leave out English players who have ‘better claims’ than some Welshmen.
Other pundits think Gatland will cut Scotland’s representation to just three – Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and either Huw Jones or Hamish Watson – but the truth is that nobody will know for certain who is going to New Zealand until Gatland and tour manager John Spencer make the announcement at 12 noon in a hotel near Twickenham.
Between 36 and 38 squad members will be named and Gatland will then call the squad captain from the wings – last Lions tour captain Sam Warburton or Alun Wyn Jones who took over the captaincy for the third and decisive Test in Australia – and then the team of assistant coaches will participate at the press conference.
Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick, Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins are all experienced coaches who will undoubtedly have had some say in Gatland’s final selection, but it is the head coach who makes the ultimate choice and that is why he will go for people he knows can make good tourists as well as fulfil their duties on the field.
You cannot argue with success and Gatland made the Lions of 2013 into a winning squad with a real tour mentality that lost only one test and one other match, though they should never have lost to the Brumbies in Canberra.
No Scot played in any of the three Tests in Australia four years ago, and surely that will not happen again as Stuart Hogg must be a first choice for the Test XV on all known form.
For what it’s worth, The Rucker thinks Gatland will pick 12 from England, 11 from Wales, ten from Ireland and five Scots – Hogg, Gray, Jones, Watson, and Finn Russell as an outside bet to tour and gain experience in what will be a white-hot atmosphere for every provincial and test match.
May’s announcement yesterday will certainly cause deep divisions across the UK and Ireland – so much for the Tory prattle about avoiding a divisive indyref – and the election itself will come the day after the second tour match against the Blues in Auckland.
It does not need saying to true rugby fans, but for the Lions all divisions must then be set aside, no matter who is selected.
We must all get behind the men in red when they take on the All Blacks.