Lions 2021 squad announcement: Johnny Sexton, Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola miss out — live updates

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Lions 2021 squad announcement: Johnny Sexton, Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola miss out — live updates.
Lions 2021 squad announcement: Johnny Sexton, Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola miss out — live updates.

Sam Simmonds has been named in the Lions squad, but Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is among several high-profile omissions.

Simmonds, the Exeter number eight and current European player of the year, has been picked by Gatland despite being consistently overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018.

He is joined by fellow bolters and centres Bundee Aki of Ireland and Scotland's Chris Harris, with Manu Tuilagi left out as he approaches his comeback from an Achilles injury.

However, Sexton is unable to force his way into the 37-man squad announced by Gatland, as are Jonathan Davies, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola and Josh Navidi.

02:52 PM

It has been some rise for Louis-Rees Zammit

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02:33 PM

Some reaction from Ireland

Ireland and Lions legend Brian O’Driscoll’s use of three question marks and an exclamation mark after he asked his Twitter followers for their reaction to Warren Gatland’s Lions squad said it all when it came to the make up of the Irish contingent.

Equalling the Scots with eight players, the tally of Irishmen was better than many in the Irish media had expected with the Irish Times fearing as low as four players due to the lack of Irish influence in the Lions coaching team outside of Welshman Robin McBride who is Leinster’s forwards coach. It wasn’t the amount of Irish players despite beating the English and the Scots in the Six Nations that caused O’Driscoll to go over the top with his punctuation, however, it was the selection.

When Irish eyes feared for the smallest contingent in two decades – they were sure, however, that second row James Ryan would make the cut. There was also the sense that regardless of recent injury travails Johnny Sexton would force his way onto the flight to South Africa but it was not to be.

O’Driscoll also said what many were thinking when he continued: “Huge for [Jack] Conan and Bundee [Aki].” Jack Conan, the Leinster No 8 received a warm selection from Irish fans on social media while Welsh fans were pondering if he came in at the expense at Josh Navidi. Expect the player to be shocked as just over two weeks ago he said he “I am not holding my breath” over Lions selection but it seems strong performances in the Pro14 final against Munster and the Champions Cup quarterfinal against Exeter helped his cause.

Aki is a curious selection, although Robbie Henshaw was one of those players even those most pessimistic Irish fans had selected. Garry Ringrose had with the injury of George North seemed from an Irish perspective a more expected choice than Aki.

While O’Driscoll was encouraging debate, 2009 Tourist Luke Fitzgerald was much more blunt in his Twitter assessment. The former Leinster wing felt that England and Exeter’s Johnny Hill was picked at Ryan’s expense and he questioned the selectors sanity over Sexton. Granted there was a growing doubt over the talismanic fly-half due to recent head knocks. “Hill>Ryan...wake up from that dream. No Sexton is crazy...” wrote Fitzgerald before adding “I’m saving a ‘no Ringrose’ vent for later for those querying” in relation to Garry Ringrose’s omission.

Despite the headline nature grabbing absence of Sexton and Ryan – they actually can be explained somewhat. Obviously, there is the Sexton injury concern and with Ryan some quarters of the Irish media and rugby public did feel he was vulnerable due to not playing a major role in the Six Nations and the Leinster pack having been well shunted by La Rochelle in their Champions Cup semi-final defeat last weekend. There was a piece at the start of the week in SportsJoe.ie saying that it would be a fight between Ryan and Ulster’s Iain Henderson for a second row spot and the prediction proved prophetic with 2017 tourist Henderson receiving the call.

It looks like Leinster’s Andrew Porter, who had a strong Six Nations, squeezed out Kyle Sinckler and joins the expected inclusion of Tadgh Furlong, while Tadgh Beirne’s inclusion will be of little surprise considering the influence he has had on Ireland recently. Beirne’s journey will be one that is sure to be written about in the coming weeks having had to leave Leinster, making his name at Scarlets before returning to Munster.

By Kate Rowan

02:20 PM

Maro has looked after the tour mascot with distinction!

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02:07 PM

Here is the footage of the announcement as it happened, with some Warren Gatland reaction

01:37 PM

Time for some player reactions to being selected... these are well worth a watch

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01:25 PM

Gavin Mairs comment: Warren Gatland's Lions squad is a slap in the face for Eddie Jones

By picking Sam Simmonds, and not selecting Kyle Sinckler, Warren Gatland has delivered the most stinging of rebukes to Eddie Jones with his British and Irish Lions squad.

Gatland has shown no hesitation in delivering the Australian – an old rival – a slap in the face with his previous Lions picks, but this year's could be the most emphatic of all.

Read the full piece here

01:17 PM

Chris Harris is a great selection on form

The Gloucester centre has proved himself to be an outstanding defender at international level, notably marking Vrimi Vakatawa out of the game against France during the Six Nations which is no mean feat. Harris is also a threat in attack, combining rangy speed with enough power to get over the gainline if required.

The Scottish 13 is in-form and in his prime. His selection is well deserved.

01:03 PM

Not picked: The biggest Lions omissions and their chances of a late call-up

Warren Gatland described it as the hardest selection of his coaching career, and you can see why when taking into account the number of top players left out of the 37-man squad to tour South Africa this summer.

Here are the biggest omissions, and which of them could end up joining the Lions later on in South Africa when injuries and suspensions set in.

Read Ben Coles' piece here

12:55 PM

There could not be a more experienced player leading the Lions to South Africa

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12:45 PM

Here are some of the players that are unlucky to miss out

James Ryan: Superb for the past two years, but formed dipped at the wrong time. Outshone by Beirne and Henderson in most recent campaign.

Johnny Sexton: An excellent Six Nations but injuries after the tournament look costly.

Jonny May: Has been world class but two new wingers on the block have pipped him to the post.

Kyle Sinckler: An assumed shoo-in. Sinckler has not been at his best but still good enough to make the trip in eyes of most.

Manu Tuilagi: Warren Gatland clearly wanted a physical centre, but went for Bundee Aki instead. Injuries the issue.

Josh Navidi: There is plenty of talent in the back row but Navidi's abrasive style seemed perfect for South Africa.

Sam Underhill: His aggressive defence would have been an asset but missing the Six Nations proved costly.

Jack Nowell: The injury to George North opened the door for him but Elliot Daly got the nod instead. Not enough game time to force his way in,

12:28 PM

Here is Will Greenwood's player-by-player guide to the Lions squad

Our columnist Will Greenwood takes you through every single player named in Warren Gatland's squad, providing analysis on each individual.

Read it here

12:22 PM

If I had to pick a 23-man squad right now from the 37 selected it would be...

1. Sutherland 2. Cowan-Dickie 3. Furlong 4. Itoje 5. AWJ 6. Beirne 7. Curry 8. Faletau 9. Murray 10. Biggar 11. Adams 12. Henshaw 13. Harris 14. Watson 15. Hogg

Subs: 16. Owens 17. Jones 18. Porter 19. Henderson 20. Simmonds 21. Davies 22. Russell 23. Williams

What would your 23 be for the first Test based on Gatland's squad?

12:16 PM

Danny Care did not make the squad, despite making a late charge

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12:15 PM

Player reaction to being selected

Jamie George: “I’m pretty relieved. It is such a nerve-wracking time. The coverage dragged on a bit. Huge relief and massive honour.”

Ken Owens: “I’m hugely thankful and looking forward to it.”

12:09 PM

Sam Simmonds selection is an exciting one

I wonder what a certain Mr Eddie Jones makes of that...

12:07 PM

Josh Navidi is another player that is desperately unlucky

His physicality would have been a real asset against South Africa.

12:05 PM

Here is the squad in full

12:02 PM

Scotland coaches in the Lions staff having an influence? Or just a good Six Nations rewarded?

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12:00 PM

Garry Ringrose unlucky to miss out

Personally think he is the best 13 available at the moment. Elliot Daly may end up playing some 13 on this tour looking at the squad breakdown.

11:54 AM

Here is the Lions squad breakdown

England 11

Wales 10

Scotland 8

Ireland 8

England still get the most picks despite the Six Nations showing...

11:53 AM

Three specialist No 8's is an interesting call

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11:52 AM

Jonny May is another high profile omission

Louis Rees-Zammit and Duhan van der Merwe are preferred.

Let us know what you think of the squad in the comments section.

11:50 AM

Selection headlines

Sam Simmonds has been named in the Lions squad, but Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is among several high-profile omissions.

Simmonds, the Exeter number eight and current European player of the year, has been picked by Gatland despite being consistently overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018.

He is joined by fellow bolters and centres Bundee Aki of Ireland and Scotland's Chris Harris, with Manu Tuilagi left out as he approaches his comeback from an Achilles injury.

However, Sexton is unable to force his way into the 37-man squad announced by Gatland, as are Jonathan Davies, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola and Josh Navidi.

11:49 AM

Bundee Aki is a huge surprise

Warren Gatland clearly wanted a powerful centre and Manu Tuilagi was not fit enough to fulfil that role.

11:47 AM

Wow some big surprises there!

Bundee Aki, Jonny Hill and Jack Conan are big surprises. Courtney Lawes sneaks in!

No Kyle Sinckler, James Ryan, Johnny Sexton and Billy Vunipola.

11:44 AM

The forwards are:

Tadhg Beirne, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Conan, Tom Curry, Zander Fageron, Taulupe Faletau, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Iain Henderson, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, Wyn Jones, Courtney Lawes, Ken Owens, Andrew Porter, Sam Simmonds, Rory Sutherland, Justin Tipuric, Mako Vunipola, Hamish Watson.

11:42 AM

The backs conclude with

Finn Russelll, Duhan van der Merwe, Anthony Watson and Liam Williams

11:41 AM

Then we have

Conor Murray, Ali Price, Louis Rees-Zammit

11:41 AM

Then it is

Chris Harris, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Hogg

11:41 AM

Next up

Elliot Daly, Gareth Davies, Owen Farrell

11:40 AM

The names are in, starting with the backs:

Josh Adams, Bundee Aki, Dan Biggar...

11:38 AM

Here we go!

The team announcement is about to, finally, happen.

11:36 AM

This is dragging on more than just a tad

Still lots of chat about what the Lions means. I think we all just want to the squad at this point.

11:32 AM

Gavin Hastings and Sam Warburton are now reacting to the captaincy news

Warburton: "He fully deserves it. There is no one better to do it. I am so thrilled for him. His rugby CV is basically complete now."

11:27 AM

Recap: Alun Wyn Jones is captain, there will be 37 Lions not 36 as expected

Squad announcement to follow shortly.

11:26 AM

Alun Wyn Jones, Lions captain: How 'Bambi' became a rugby behemoth

Named Lions skipper for this year's tour to South Africa, Jones has shown a burning desire to be the best on the pitch throughout his career

Read all about Alun Wyn Jones and how he got this point here

11:23 AM

The new Lions captain speaks:

It is a privilege. Being selected and having the armband is a huge privilege. I have a huge amount of pride that I can add this to the CV.

11:21 AM

The captain will be Alun Wyn Jones!

As expected, the Wales captain gets the nod.

11:20 AM

The squad will be 37 not 36!

reveals Warren Gatland. Perhaps this was the last minute change...

11:17 AM

Warren Gatland is speaking ahead of the announcement

He says this was the hardest Lions squad to select... always the way.

11:17 AM

Brian O'Driscoll is backing Manu Tuilagi for selection!

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11:16 AM

Some wise words ahead of the announcement

It's worth remembering what one leading coach said to me this week - the 36 players named today are highly unlikely to be the same 36 who board the plane to South Africa, given the risk of injuries and suspensions. Small hope for those players who miss out today.

By Ben Coles

11:14 AM

The Irish contingent could be strong for this tour

As my colleague Ben Coles wrote for this blog earlier this morning, there is much pessimism from the Irish media on the number of Irish Lions to be called up owing to the lack of representation in the coaching team. This may be true but surely selectors will be able to see past this and one imagines numbers as low as four – the lowest Irish contingent since 1997 or six – lowest representation since 2001 that was mooted in the Irish Times this morning. But this is doing what the Irish do very well – feeling most comfortable when the underdog!

It is worth remembering Ireland beat both England and Scotland in the Six Nations this year and finished third behind Wales and Scotland. Also, Leinster were the only home nations representative in the Champions Cup semi-finals. Perhaps it is the fact that there is such a cloud over Johnny Sexton due to injury that he is dominating the more negative discourse on how many Irish will make the plane to South Africa.

Conor Murray seems to be somewhat taken for granted perhaps because the Munster man has been relatively quiet over recent years but has been in solid Test form and thrives on the biggest stage.

Due to the 36-man squad numbers will be less but as well as Murray, Tadgh Furlong, James Ryan and Robbie Henshaw look to be nailed on selections but Tadgh Beirne has an extremely strong chance. And you couldn’t be seen as mad to suggest 2017 tourists Iain Henderson and CJ Stander as well as hooker Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy whose 2013 Tour was cut short due to injury, Garry Ringrose, Andrew Porter and Josh van der Flier as contenders, which is a healthy Irish contingent fighting for places.

By Kate Rowan

11:07 AM

We are expecting the captain announcement shortly

Followed by the squad just before 12.30pm.

11:05 AM

Last minute call for predictions!

I am going for either Danny Care or Ben Spencer to be one of the scrum-halves...

Let us know your predictions in the comments section!

10:55 AM

The squad announcement pageantry has now begun

We are not far away now!

10:54 AM

Position by position breakdown: Back three

Starting at full back, Stuart Hogg and Liam Williams are both expected to make the plane despite a late run from the impressive Hugo Keenan.

On the wing there are plenty of outstanding options including Anthony Watson, Josh Adams, Jonny May, Louis Rees-Zammit, Duhan van der Merwe and Keith Earls.

The two other players to keep an eye on are Elliot Daly and Jack Nowell. Daly's versatility and massive boot make him a strong candidate despite recent form while Nowell is a favourite of Gatland from the last tour.

10:45 AM

Position by position breakdown: Centre

Robbie Henshaw is the leading contender after a superb Six Nations. Garry Ringrose, Chris Harris, Jonathan Davies, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade are all in the mix too.

The injury to the versatile George North could open the door for Tuilagi who is now back fit after a spell on the sidelines.

10:38 AM

Position by position breakdown: Fly-half

The latest reports from Telegraph Sport suggest that Jonathan Sexton could miss out. That would leave Owen Farrell, Dan Biggar and Finn Russell in prime position. However, Telegraph Sport also understands that Marcus Smith and George Ford are on the long-list as well.

10:34 AM

Update from Daniel Schofield - a late change of heart could be on the cards!

I have been told that Sam Simmonds will not be the only surprise in Gatland’s squad. While Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care fits the profile of another “bolter”, do not be surprised if the presence of two Scotland coaches in Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy means that we see a bolt from the blue. For every inclusion there must be an omission. England No 8 Billy Vunipola and Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who have either been struggling either for fitness or form, seem vulnerable, but I believe there may be other shocks, especially if the reports of a late change this morning prove accurate.

10:32 AM

We are less than an hour away from the squad announcement!

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10:31 AM

Position by position breakdown: Scrum-half

Ben Youngs' decision to rule himself out of the tour has opened up the scrum-half position even further. It is fair to say it is not a position of strength for the Lions.

Conor Murray is the leading contender. Both Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams are in the mix as is Ali Price, while Telegraph Sport understands that both Danny Care and Ben Spencer made the Lions long-list.

Will Gatland pull a surprise with one of his nines?

10:26 AM

Position by position breakdown: Back row

Starting at No 8, Taulupe Faletau is a shoo-in. Telegraph Sport understands Sam Simmonds will be the other eighth man, getting the nod ahead of Billy Vunipola, Caelan Doris and Jack Conan (unless there is a last minute change of heart).

On the flank, Tom Curry will be picked. Outside of him it is harder to predict. Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Hamish Watson, Sam Underhill, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander and Jamie Ritchie all have their merits.

Personally, I would take Curry, Navidi, Watson and Underhill (with sincere apologies to Tipuric).

10:19 AM

Position by position breakdown: Lock

Alun Wyn Jones, Maro Itoje and James Ryan will all surely make the cut. On Six Nations form, the versatile options of Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne would join them. That would mean Jonny Gray would unluckily miss out.

Courtney Lawes is the wildcard in this mix. He has been out with injury but is back fit now. Gatland used him in the Tests in 2017 it should not be forgotten...

10:16 AM

Position by position breakdown: Tighthead prop

It is widely assumed Tadhg Furlong and Kyle Sinckler will make the cut. The third choice is tricky, however.

Zander Fagerson, Tomas Francis and Andrew Porter are all good options - the latter can cover loosehead too which is handy. Telegraph Sport understands that Will Stuart also made the long-list so the Bath prop should not be discounted.

10:13 AM

Fly-half update: George Ford is in contention

It appears that Warren Gatland does not enjoy making life easy for himself. Telegraph Sport revealed this week how Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith was still in the mix at yesterday's final selection meeting, in a position of perceived strength for the Lions.

Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton, Finn Russell and Dan Biggar will all feature in the majority of wish-lists throughout the British Isles and, even with the concussion cloud hanging over the Irish skipper, this quartet offers ample options to Gatland and his assistants - with at least one still expected to remain at home.

One man, however, who should not be written off quite yet is George Ford. Telegraph Sport understands that the Leicester fly-half did receive a save-the-date email from the Lions, even if he was overlooked by Gatland in 2017, and he offers versatility - a buzzword for this squad - in the No 10 jersey. There are not many fly-halves in the world, let alone in Britain and Ireland, who can play a high-tempo passing game when required but still sit back in the pocket and play the percentages when required as well as Ford. If Gatland was looking for a fly-half to bring off the bench to either chase and win a match or batten down the hatches to secure one, then Ford is the man.

And that's before you begin trying to defuse Ford's famous spiral bombs at altitude. Good luck with that!

By Charles Richardson

10:10 AM

Position by position breakdown: Hooker

Ken Owens is a shoo-in in this position. Who will join him is more tricky.

Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie are the frontrunners but George Turner and Ronan Kelleher could both be in the mix after impressive Six Nations campaigns.

Cowan-Dickie's physicality makes him a great option for Gatland, in my humble opinion.

10:00 AM

Position by position breakdown: Loosehead prop

Both Ellis Genge and Joe Marler have revealed they did not make the Lions long-list which narrows down the choices considerably.

Three from Wyn Jones, Mako Vunipola, Cian Healy and Rory Sutherland are likely to be selected. Sutherland picked up an injury a fortnight ago which could cost him selection despite an excellent 18 month spell of international rugby.

I personally think Vunipola would be fortunate to be selected due to his scrummaging issues - notably against the 'Boks in the World Cup final as well as in this Six Nations - and his recent lack of form. But, Gatland likes him and he is a proven Lions performer.

09:51 AM

Here is a top quality stat for you

If Alun Wyn Jones is indeed named captain, as is expected, it would mean the last time the Lions went to South Africa without a second row as captain was over 50 years ago, Tom Kiernan in 1968.

Courtesy of our very own Charles Richardson

09:39 AM

And here it is... because who doesn't enjoy watching this video

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09:38 AM

Here are Mick Cleary's Three Most Dramatic Lions Memories in the Flesh

  1. The Sea of Red, the Gabba 2001. The moment when the Lions confirmed their future in the modern era, the sight of the massed ranks of fans filling one of Australia's most iconic sporting venues showing just how much the supporters cared. If only all the sport's powerbrokers showed similar faith

  2. Morne Steyn 52 metre last-gasp penalty to win the second test in Pretoria and with it the 2009 series. A gut-wrencher but I happened to be sitting among the Loftus Versfeld diehards in media overspill seats and the place just went crazy.

  3. Matt Dawson show-and-go try in the Cape Town test 1997, bamboozling Gary Teichmann and sending the Lions on their way to unexpected victory over the world champions. Has there been a more outrageous dummy?

What is your favourite Lions moment?

I personally still have a soft spot for George North's fireman lift of Israel Folau in 2013...

09:24 AM

We are two hours away from the big reveal...

After months and months of conjecture, the day has finally arrived and Warren Gatland will reveal his 36-man squad to take on the Springboks at just before 12.30pm.

It is anticipated that a couple of English players that did not feature in the Six Nations could be selected. Telegraph Sport revealed that Danny Care, Marcus Smith, Sam Simmonds and Ben Spencer all made the Lions long-list. Simmonds in particular has been tipped to named later today.

A number of players have been ruled in recent weeks. George North and Joe Launchbury will both be unavailable due to injury while Ben Youngs ruled himself out due to family reasons. Impressive Scottish loosehead Rory Sutherland sustained an injury a fortnight ago but could be fit in time for the tour. However, his untimely injury could prove costly.

Just as players have picked up injuries at the wrong time, some have returned to fitness. Jack Nowell is notably back in the frame after featuring for Exeter in the last two games - his chances have been improved by the injury to North in particular. Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes - Lions in 2013 and 2017 respectively - will be in action shortly but did not get on the pitch before the announcement to stake a claim. Whether they have enough credit in the bank is the question.

Johnny Sexton is another player who has picked up an injury at just the wrong time. The Ireland captain proved during the Six Nations that he can still perform at an elite level but has since been injured. Sexton can still be a top performer, but can Gatland trust him to be fit for the tour and then stay fit during it?

This is just one of the many selection questions that the Lions coaching staff have been wrestling with.

There will be surprise inclusions and a controversial pick or two along the way. Stay with Telegraph Sport as we guide you through one of the most exciting days on the rugby calendar.

09:13 AM

It is expected that Alun Wyn Jones will be named captain later on today

Telegraph Sport were first to report this on Saturday. Read Gavin Mairs' exclusive story on the Lions captaincy with insight from Sean Holley, who coached Jones at Ospreys between 2005 and 2012, and said he was a “modern-day Willie John McBride”, and his former team-mate Adam Jones.

Full story here

08:53 AM

Jason Robinson's team for the first Test

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08:41 AM

Age no barrier to Alun Wyn Jones

Shaun Edwards, the France defence coach, who worked with Alun Wyn Jones at Wales and the Lions, insists his age is not an issue. At 35, he will be the oldest Lions captain in the professoinal era.

"He is a proven winner at club and international level. People talk about his age but from my experience, the big players rise to the occasion," Edwards told Gavin Mairs.

08:37 AM

Telegraph readers pick their Lions squad

Over the past few days, we've been asking Telegraph readers to pick their 36-man Lions squad. This morning, the results are in.

Some of the highlights:

  • Iain Henderson preferred to Alun Wyn Jones among the second row selections

  • No place on the plane for England shoo-in Billy Vunipola

  • Danny Care picked as the Lions bolter

  • Owen Farrell gets the nod over Johnny Sexton as an out-and-out fly half

You can find the full selection here, and judge how it compares to the squads picked by our team of rugby writers.

08:09 AM

A confession from Ben Coles

There are Lions selection hills which we're all willing to die on, and Chris Harris is mine. The Gloucester and Scotland centre has had an excellent season, defensively vital for Scotland in the Six Nations, while his link play in attack has also improved.

Here's what George Skivington, his head coach at Gloucester, had to say this week:

"I think it's hard to find a better defensive 13 than Chris. He reads the game unbelievably well. I thought in the Six Nations he was one of the standout players. From my point of view, I think he's done enough [to go on the Lions]. Week to week in the Premiership, he's always one of the best players on the pitch. He's got a very good chance."

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

07:45 AM

Coming back for seconds

How does Gatland get around the embarrassment of riches in the second row? According to this update just in from Dan Schofield, he's likely to just pick, er, loads of them.

Unless you have been living under a rock or have Virgin as your broadband provider, you may have seen a couple of people nominating their 36-man Lions squads in recent days. These invariably feature nine front rowers, four locks, four flankers and two No 8s. However, I have been told not to expect such a uniform split within Gatland’s squad which is apparently heavy on second rows (even if a couple of them can play at blindside). As ever Gatland’s squad will confound many expectations.

07:32 AM

Sexton and the selection headaches

A note from Ben Coles, on the vexed Sexton question.

Johnny Sexton feels like one of the bigger 50-50 calls heading into the squad announcement. The Ireland fly-half, 35, has been "training the house down" according to Stuart Lancaster, after Sexton missed out on Leinster's Champions Cup semi-final defeat to La Rochelle over the weekend, and finished the Six Nations strongly with Ireland.

However, there are still concerns over Sexton's health after being removed from the field for three HIAs over the past few months, and valid questions regarding whether the Ireland captain's body can sustain going on an eight-game tour. Not to mention the high level of competition for any of the fly-half berths with Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell, Finn Russell, George Ford and Marcus Smith.

Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan seem to certain to tour from Leinster while there are a number of other players in contention, including props Cian Healy and Andrew Porter, hooker Ronan Kelleher, back-rows Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan plus Garry Ringrose in midfield.

Coverage in the Irish press in recent days has cited the lack of an Irish presence among the Lions coaching staff — despite forwards coach Robin McBryde currently being employed by Leinster — as a reason behind some of Ireland's leading players potentially missing out on selection for the Lions.

Sexton
Sexton

07:27 AM

Marler misses out

As reported yesterday, Joe Marler did not get one of Warren Gatland's "save the date" emails.

He told Charles Richardson that he suspected that his decision not to enter England's Six Nations bubble counted against him when considering which players to take to South Africa.

"It’s a pretty tight bubble, nine weeks away, it’s already tough enough as it is, if you were Warren Gatland, would you go, 'Do I need someone who has form of struggling mentally and away from home? Is that the right person to have on that tour? Probably not'. "Maybe? Who knows? Maybe it’s just that there are better players than me. There are pretty good players in the loosehead position before having to consider someone who hasn’t played international rugby for 12 months and has got form of not being that good at being away from home."

Marler
Marler

07:09 AM

Trivia time

A question from Charles Richardson:

For anyone in the mood for some Lions selection day trivia, if - as expected - Alun Wyn Jones is named in today’s squad, he will become only the second player ever to feature in a Lions tour in three separate decades.

Who was the first? Let us know your answers in the comments

06:49 AM

Inside yesterday's final selection meeting

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As Telegraph Rugby reporter Charlie Morgan has suggested.... it's settled then: 18 jackallers, 17 full-backs and Dan Biggar.

06:44 AM

Scotland's time has come

It is anticipated that there will be a strong Scottish contingent following an impressive Six Nations campaign and two of the Scotland coaching setup being included in the tour's staff.

While England had a poor tournament just at the wrong time, four players outside Eddie Jones' squad - including scrum-half Danny Care and No 8 Sam Simmonds - have been tipped to get a Lions call-up.

Alun Wyn Jones will be named tour captain, while England's Saracens pair Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell and Scotland's Stuart Hogg also mooted as contenders.

In part due to the difficulties of travelling during a pandemic, Gatland is naming a 36-man squad. The Lions took 41 to New Zealand four years ago.

06:38 AM

Big calls over Tuilagi, Sexton....and Smith

Alun Wyn Jones is expected to be named British and Irish Lions captain for the summer tour to South Africa at lunchtime today.

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 would not guarantee a place in the Test team.

Gatland will name a group of 36 — made up of 20 forwards and 16 backs — at an announcement that is being streamed live online with players discovering for the first time if they have been selected.

One of the biggest calls facing Gatland is whether to include Manu Tuilagi, whose comeback from an Achilles injury in time for the final phase of Sale's title push is imminent.

The powerful England centre has not played since September, ruling him out of the autumn and Six Nations and making his inclusion a risk, but Gatland will be aware of his unique ability to break the gainline and may decide he is worth the gamble.

The loss of George North to a knee injury has thinned Gatland's midfield options and Tuilagi would potentially be a more explosive alternative.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton could be one of the biggest casualties due to his ongoing issues with concussion that have limited his game time since the Six Nations.

His absence would open up a vacancy at fly-half, possibly for Finn Russell of Scotland with Wales' Dan Biggar expected to tour and Owen Farrell likely to travel as a centre.

Marcus Smith has been shredding defences for Harlequins this season and the uncapped 22-year-old is among an extended group of over 50 players to have been notified that they are under consideration.

It would be a seismic call for Smith to be included among the 36, however, given he has yet to make his England debut.

Harlequins' mid-season resurgence has propelled Danny Care into contention at scrum-half three years after the 34-year-old veteran of 84 caps fell out of favour under Eddie Jones.

Care has formed the Gallagher Premiership's most creative half-back partnership alongside Smith and he could profit from Ben Youngs ruling himself out of consideration.