2017 British and Irish Lions squad: The winners and losers
By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 19/04/17 10:42pm
Warren Gatland pulled a couple of surprises when naming his Lions squad for this summer's daunting trip of New Zealand.
The Kiwi has selected a 41-man squad with the majority coming from England. The Six Nations champions will have 16 tourists, with 12 from Wales, 11 Irish and two Scots.
England skipper Dylan Hartley misses out while Wasps lock Joe Launchbury was another surprise omission. Here are our winners and losers from Gatland's squad announcement…
Winner: Kyle Sinckler
Sinckler has yet to start a Test for England but has proven his value as an impact player from the bench, finishing four of England's five Six Nations matches.
As well as being a powerful scrummager the 24-year-old is explosive with ball in hand, making an impressive break against Italy that resulted in a try for Ben Te'o, while he showed slick hands during Harlequins' loss to Exeter last weekend.
Losers: WP Nel, Tomas Francis, Samson Lee
Edinburgh prop Nel was a leading contender for the No 3 jersey at the start of the season but his hopes were ended by a neck injury which required surgery.
Nel has been sidelined since January and is unlikely to play again this season.
There are also no Wales props in Gatland's squad following an indifferent Six Nations, although Francis and Lee will be nearby should there be any withdrawals. Wales face Tonga in Auckland on June 17.
Winner: Jamie George
The Saracen made big impacts from the bench during the Six Nations and many have tipped him to play a similar role for the Lions.
George's form has been impressive as Saracens remain on course for back-to-back European and Premiership doubles. Having played understudy to Dylan Hartley with England, he has ousted his skipper for Lions selection.
Loser: Dylan Hartley
Hartley struggled for form during the Six Nations and was regularly replaced around the 50-minute mark, but he produced arguably his best performance of the season for Northampton against Saracens last Sunday.
However, it has come too late and he will instead continue as England captain for their summer tour of Argentina.
Winners: George Kruis, Iain Henderson
The Saracens second row missed the entire Six Nations with a knee injury that required surgery but made an impressive return - ahead of schedule - in Sunday's comeback win over Northampton, playing the full 80 minutes.
Kruis is a self-confessed lineout nerd while Henderson's versatility - the Ulsterman can play at lock or flanker - is a useful asset.
Losers: Joe Launchbury, Jonny Gray, Donnacha Ryan
The Wasps skipper impressed in Kruis' absence during the Six Nations but two below-par performances in Dublin - for England and Wasps - looks to have cost him a place in Gatland's squad.
Wasps were quick to voice their surprise at Launchbury's omission and it underlines the competition for places at lock, with Donnacha Ryan and the Gray brothers the other notable absentees.
Winners: Peter O'Mahony, Ross Moriarty, Taulupe Faletau
Injury limited O'Mahony's involvement during the Six Nations but he produced a man-of-the-match performance on his return to the Ireland starting side for their final day win over England.
The Munster skipper is a fierce competitor and a nuisance at the breakdown, while his expertise in the lineout gives him an edge over the other blindside contenders.
Moriarty kept Taulupe Faletau out of the Wales starting line-up during the Six Nations with a string of fine performances and they will again battle it out in New Zealand.
Losers: Chris Robshaw, James Haskell
Another player hampered by injury, Robshaw missed the entirety of England's successful Six Nations defence and his cause was not helped by Harlequins' inconsistent form.
The former England skipper has played the entirety of Quins' last three games but it was not enough to move him up the pecking order.
Haskell featured in all five of England's Six Nations games, starting the last three, but he fails to figure in the most competitive of back rows.
Winner: Dan Biggar
There were calls for Biggar to be relieved of the No 10 shirt during the Six Nations but the Osprey has plenty of credit in the bank with Gatland and was one the few bright spots in Wales' series whitewash in New Zealand in 2016.
Biggar needs to let his rugby do the talking after a number of run-ins with referees but he remains an excellent place-kicker, while his experience and defensive attributes will have been crucial factors in his selection as third fly-half.
Losers: George Ford, Finn Russell
Ford was an ever-present during the Six Nations but his disappointing display against Ireland - where he replaced only to return following an injury to Ben Te'o - has convinced Gatland to go with Biggar.
Russell also looks to have paid the price for two heavy losses in London, against England in the Six Nations and Saracens in the Champions Cup.
Winners: Ben Te'o, Jared Payne
Te'o has emerged a big 'finisher' for England and his powerful running game draws comparison to former Gatland favourite Jamie Roberts, while his offloading ability will keep opposition defences on their toes.
The 30-year-old was born in Auckland but qualifies for England through his mother. He could line up against Sonny Bill Williams, who he famously flattened with a shoulder charge during their rugby league days, when the Lions face the Blues.
Fellow Kiwi Payne, who is comfortable at 13 or full-back, made his return from a kidney injury in Ireland's Six Nations win over England and his defensive leadership could prove crucial.
Loser: Garry Ringrose
Ringrose has made a fantastic start to his international career and has drawn comparisons to Ireland and Lions legend Brian O'Driscoll.
But Gatland has opted for Ireland team-mates Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne, while the Lions also have the option of moving the versatile Elliot Daly into midfield.
Winners: Tommy Seymour, Leigh Halfpenny
Seymour has been rewarded for his fine performances during the Six Nations, where he scored two tries, created another and made five line breaks.
Halfpenny hasn't reached his usual lofty heights this season but remains an outstanding place-kicker. He is 84 per cent off the tee for Toulon in the Top 14, kicking 57 of his 68 attempts, and slotted 13 points in the win over Castres last weekend.
Losers: Christian Wade, Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Simon Zebo, Keith Earls
Wade and Ashton have been scoring tries for fun in domestic and European club action but their lack of international exposure looks to have cost them a place on the tour.
However, Brown and Zebo can feel unlucky to have missed out along with Keith Earls, who was joint top-scorer in the Six Nations.