Sports

Steve Hansen: Expectation will weigh heavily on the British and Irish Lions

Steve Hansen: Expectation will weigh heavily on the British and Irish Lions

Warren Gatland has revealed that Dylan Hartley was overlooked by the British and Irish Lions for their tour to New Zealand due to the irrepressible claim of his England understudy Jamie George.

"From a personal perspective, he was one player when we played Ireland in Dublin before the last World Cup, he really caused us problems", said Gatland.

Hartley has led England to back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles, a world record-equalling 18 successive Test match wins and a 3-0 series whitewash against Australia Down Under.

"And we are not playing at home".

If there was heartache for Hartley, there was set to be uproar in Scotland.

"I feel humbled and extremely proud to be given the opportunity to captain the Lions for a second Tour and look forward to playing the world champions on their own turf with the best players of the United Kingdom and Ireland at my side".

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Former Scotland and Lions prop Ian McLauchlan was critical of Warren Gatland's squad selection.

SAM Warburton says his stellar Six Nations form after being replaced as Wales skipper meant he had no hesitation in accepting the British and Irish Lions captaincy.

Gatland felt Scotland's 61-21 defeat in England and Glasgow's 38-13 European defeat by Saracens were evidence that it would be risky to take more Scotland players to face the All Blacks.

Gatland has chosen 16 England players, 12 from Wales, 11 from Ireland and two from Scotland.

Warburton, who was Gatland's captain for Wales from 2011-16, found out he was being retained in the role when he got a phone call from Gatland as he sat in his auto at a supermarket waiting for his girlfriend to return with the shopping.

Warburton said he would be "100 percent" fit for the start of the tour, despite sustaining a knee-ligament injury while playing for Cardiff Blues on April 7.

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The Lions kick off their tour with a June 3rd clash with the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, with the first test against the All Blacks coming three weeks later on June 24th.

He hinted that Hurricanes back Jordie Barrett - brother of Beauden - was well in the reckoning for a place in the 33-man squad for the three-test Lions series.

"I know there are going to be some games (in New Zealand) where it is wet, as it is winter and stuff, but in general the tempo there is going to be out there will suit him down to the ground. A guy like Finn Russell's been playing extremely well and can't even make the team because they've got Sexton, Farrell and Biggar there, you've also got young Ford missing out".

In the 2013 tour, nine players were summoned as injury cover so all is not lost for those who missed out.

'He likes his big ball-carriers in the middle of the park and his big, grunty forwards, so that is what he has picked, and I would expect that we are going to get a similar game style to what we've always got whenever we have played a Warren Gatland team'.

"We decided on a number of positions (on Tuesday). But looking back, we think it's the strongest squad".

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