Picking Alun Wyn Jones over Maro Itoje was a 'toss of a coin', says Warren Gatland
Last Updated: 23/06/17 3:16pm
England lock Maro Itoje missed out on British and Irish Lions selection by the proverbial "toss of a coin", according to coach Warren Gatland.
Gatland revealed the battle between former European player of the year Itoje and Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones for a second-row starting place against New Zealand in Saturday's first Test, live on Sky Sports, had been desperately close.
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The decision was confirmed during an 80-minute coaches' selection meeting on Wednesday, with Gatland using the coin metaphor to illustrate just how tight the call had been, with Jones ultimately chosen to start and Itoje named as a replacement.
"Alun Wyn Jones knows himself there was a big call to be made between him and Maro, and it was a toss of a coin," Gatland said.
"He knows he is under pressure and he's got to go out there and perform and give a big performance, personally.
"That was a tough call. Alun Wyn played well against the Crusaders, Maro was outstanding against the Maori.
"We had one of the longest selection meetings I have been in for a while - an hour and 20 minutes. Normally, they don't take too long."
Full-back Liam Williams and wing Elliot Daly were both rewarded for outstanding midweek displays against the Chiefs with places in Saturday's line-up.
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Gatland is looking for Williams to cause New Zealand similar trouble to what he created for the All Blacks when on tour with Wales last summer.
"To be honest, he [Williams] has played his way into the Test team by his performance," Gatland added.
"He did one dumb thing, which was his little chip ahead, but you know that every now and then there might be a brain explosion with Liam Williams, as we saw with the yellow card [against the Blues]. He must be switched on, mentally.
"We saw last year he caused the All Blacks problems with his running and attacking game, and when we sat down on Wednesday we asked whether we needed to look at our back-three and we needed to go there and have players who have some footwork and to play some rugby.
"Elliot Daly was outstanding [against the Chiefs]. That run down the sideline, where he threw the inside pass, there aren't many who can do that. He just put the gas on and passed inside.
"Elliot is just an outstanding rugby player. You tell him once, and he gets it. There are not many people who understand the game as well as he does.
"We are happy with our set-pieces, but I don't know if it's going to be enough playing a set-piece orientated game to try and ground them (New Zealand) into the ground.
"We've got to, when we get the opportunity, go and score some points and score some tries, and that is why that selection is the way it is."