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'Baffling' - Former Lion leads Irish outrage over Ryan omission

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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When Ireland and Leinster’s James Ryan was securing a Grand Slam, Heineken Champions Cup, a series win down under in Australia and a victory over the All Blacks in 2018, the lock seemed destined to make the British and Irish Lions in 2021.


Even as Ireland and Leinster waned slightly in the succeeding years, Ryan remained one of the most promising players in the game. At the beginning of the year, the 24-year-old would have still been many people’s favourite to start against the Springboks, and was even in the captaincy conversation. His inclusion in Warren Gatland’s squad was nothing short of an inevitability.

That is why the Leinster man’s omission this year has caused quite a stir online since the 37-man squad was announced on Thursday. In a squad where Gatland has favoured locks who can also slide down the scrum into blindside flanker, Ryan misses out.

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Alun Wyn Jones and Jonny Hill are the only two selections who solely operate in the second-row. The tour captain Jones was always secure, but Hill’s selection over Ryan has been questioned, particularly by 2009 Lion Luke Fitzgerald.

“Hill>Ryan…wake up from that dream,” the one-cap Lion and former Ireland winger wrote on Twitter soon after the squad was announced, but he is not alone.


In the past year, Leinster’s pack have been physically dominated in their two biggest matches, against Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final last year and against La Rochelle in the semi-final last weekend.

Those performances would not have helped any Leinster player, but plenty of Ryan’s teammates made the squad, three of which are fellow forwards.

Meanwhile, England’s Hill has been part of an Exeter pack that have consistently swarmed their opponents over the past 18 months, winning the Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership in the process (although they did lose to Leinster this year). That sort of physicality up front is what the Lions selectors will want against the Springboks.

Gatland has emphasised that this is just a matter of opinion, but no other omitted player has looked so secure over the past four years than Ryan.



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