Warren Gatland names his all-time Lions XV, unexpected England flanker selected - Page 2 of 3 - Ruck

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

10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

Sexton’s tactical genius and ice-cool demeanor made him the linchpin of Irish rugby. A master orchestrator on the field, his pinpoint accuracy and leadership under pressure were instrumental in Ireland’s victories, solidifying his place among the sport’s elite playmakers.

Gatland wrote: “Another one of my controversial decisions was not taking Johnny on the tour to South Africa in 2021. I had sound reasons at the time based on concerns that he would not be able to withstand the training and fixtures schedule.

“Analysis of the players’ data showed he had not played games on three consecutive weekends since 2018 because of knocks and rest periods for Leinster or Ireland. It is still a decision I wonder if I got right, given how he finished his career with Ireland. But I have no hesitation in naming him in my all-time starting XV. He started in all three Tests in 2013 and then was pivotal in 2017 when, after the first Test, we went with the Sexton/Farrell combination. His biggest attribute is communication and game understanding.”

9. Mike Phillips (Wales)

Phillips’ fearless approach and unparalleled vision made him a standout scrum-half in Welsh rugby lore. With a cannon-like pass and fearless runs, he dictated the tempo of the game, earning the respect of teammates and foes alike as one of the best in his position.

1. Mako Vunipola (England)

Vunipola’s thunderous carries and tenacious defense made him a cornerstone of English rugby’s front row. With boundless energy and technical prowess, he dominated the set-piece and the loose, earning plaudits as one of the premier props of his generation.

2. Jamie George (England)

George’s precision in the set-piece and tireless work rate made him a linchpin of England’s forward pack. A master of the line-out and a fierce competitor in the loose, he epitomized the modern hooker, blending power with finesse to devastating effect.

Gatland wrote: “I have a huge amount of time for Jamie, both as a bloke and as a player. If his form had not dipped in early 2021 with England, I could well have gone with him as my tour captain for the South Africa tour. His setpiece was the difference for me, and he was an excellent line-out thrower. He also has surprisingly good footwork and skills for a hooker.”

3. Adam Jones (Wales)

ones’ scrummaging prowess and tireless work ethic made him a legend of Welsh rugby’s front row. A rock in the scrum and a dynamic presence around the field, he set the standard for modern props, earning plaudits as one of the best in the business.