Warren Gatland names his all-time Lions XV, unexpected England flanker selected - Ruck

Warren Gatland names his all-time Lions XV, unexpected England flanker selected

Warren Gatland has been involved in the past three Lions tours, first as an assistant to Sir Ian McGeechan in 2009, then taking the helm for the memorable tours in 2013, 2017, and 2021.

Across these tours, Gatland experienced a variety of outcomes: triumphing over Australia in 2013, securing a hard-fought draw against New Zealand in 2017, and facing defeat against the formidable South Africa team in 2021.

As Ireland’s head coach Andy Farrell prepares to lead the Lions in Australia, Gatland has taken the opportunity to reminisce about his time with the Lions, selecting his ultimate XV from those campaigns.

“I have gone through my notes of each of the four tours – my first as an assistant to Sir Ian McGeechan to South Africa in 2009, then as head coach for Australia in 2013, New Zealand in 2017 and South Africa in 2021 and made what is undoubtedly the toughest selection I have ever had to make,” Gatland wrote in his Telegraph column.

“To give it some context, I have made my selections based on a snapshot of all the players when they were at their best for the Lions when I was involved.

“It does not take into account what they achieved over the course of their careers but when they pulled on the red shirt.”

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15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)

A stalwart of Welsh rugby, Halfpenny’s precision on the field was matched only by his reliability under the high ball. His defensive prowess and lethal boot made him a formidable opponent, earning him accolades as one of the finest full-backs in the world.

14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland)

Bowe’s lightning pace and clinical finishing made him a nightmare for opposition defenses. Renowned for his work ethic and versatility, he brought a blend of skill and determination to every game, leaving an indelible mark on Irish rugby history.

13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Davies’ midfield mastery and astute game reading elevated him to the pinnacle of Welsh rugby. A linchpin in both attack and defence, his ability to break lines and create opportunities made him a vital asset in any team’s arsenal.

Gatland wrote: “This was the most difficult selection for many obvious reasons. I know a lot of people will ask why I did not select Brian O’Driscoll here. If you were to pick a Lions team that included the tours when he was at his best, 2001 and 2005, then he would come into that calculation because he was an unbelievable player.

“But when I was head coach in 2013, his best days were behind him whereas Jonathan Davies was in his prime. He played in the series-winning Test in 2013 and went on to become player of the series on the 2017 tour against the world champions New Zealand.”

12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)

Roberts’ brute force and tactical acumen made him a force to be reckoned with in midfield. Combining power with finesse, he consistently punched holes in opposition defences, earning accolades as one of Wales’ most formidable centres

11. George North (Wales)

North’s sheer athleticism and devastating speed made him a game-changer on the wing. Blessed with remarkable footwork and raw power, he left defenders grasping at thin air as he tore through opposition lines, cementing his status as a Welsh rugby icon.

Gatland wrote: “Wales were blessed with some fantastic athletes in the backline during my time and George was another one with explosive power and brilliant footwork which made him difficult to deal with, particularly at his best between 2011 to 2013. His physicality was important in negating the power of Israel Folau against Australia in 2013.”