Warren Gatland reveals hardest decisions in Lions squad
By Nadeem Badshah
Last Updated: 19/04/17 4:45pm
Warren Gatland has revealed the toughest decisions were leaving out Joe Launchbury and selecting Ben Te'o in his British and Irish Lions squad.
The 41-man squad for the summer tour of New Zealand has 16 Englishmen including hooker Jamie George along with centres Jonathan Joseph and Te'o.
Dylan Hartley, who captained England to the Six Nations trophy this year, missed out along with Wasps duo Joe Launchbury and James Haskell.
Gatland admitted it was a tough call to leave out Hartley, while the midfield and second-row positions sparked the most debate between the coaches.
He told Sky Sports News HQ: "We made a big call leaving out Joe Launchbury. Obviously, the midfield caused some debate too.
"It was a big call taking Ben Te'o, he's been playing at 13 but is a better 12, given the potential weather conditions in New Zealand and the impact he made for England coming off the bench.
"Particularly in the second row, hookers as well. We had some long discussions."
Gatland, whose Lions side play their first Test on June 24 in Auckland live on Sky Sports, added: "It was a discussion that Dylan's done a great job for England.
"We felt we couldn't leave out Jamie George, the job he's done coming off the bench and for Saracens.
"And Rory Best and Ken Owens had a great Six Nations as well. Dylan is very unlucky he's not in the squad. It was a really tough call for us."
The Lions coach said an easier decision was picking Sam Warburton as skipper for the tour having captained the side to a 2-1 series victory against Australia in 2013.
And New Zealand-born Gatland believes the role will be less pressurising than captaining Wales.
"He did a great job in 2013 as a winning Lions captain. Sam knows he's got the honour of captaining on tour but if someone is playing better for him we would have no problem selecting them ahead of him for the Tests.
"I think this role is a bit easier [than Wales], because of the quality of the squad around him and the leaders from the other countries.
"I think he will thrive in the role. I think having had the experience four years ago and learning from 2013 I think that will make him a better captain.
"He's hugely respected by the referees in terms of how he conducts himself."