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The real reason behind James Ryan's so-called Lions snub

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside via Getty Images)

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While the appointment of Conor Murray as British & Irish Lions caught many off guard late last night, it’s another Warren Gatland call that has left some fans scratching their collective heads.


Despite their comfortable victory over Japan, the Lions have been left reeling at the loss of their captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who will play no further part in the tour after dislocating his shoulder.

Many Ireland and Scotland rugby fans in particular are confused at the selection of Wales and Ospreys lock Adam Beard ahead of James Ryan and Jonny Gray respectively. While Beard had a solid Guinness Six Nations campaign, many had presumed one of either Ryan or Gray would be favourites to replace Jones.

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Both were left out of the initial selection in May, Ryan’s omission in particular drawing fire in the Irish press. Ryan had been a bolted-on Lion in 2020, but the consensus was that mediocre Autumn Nations Cup and Six Nations form had cost him a spot on the plane.

The real reason for his omission appears to be pretty mundane. Journalist Cian Treacy, reporting in the Irish, says Ryan has in fact picked up an injury in Ireland camp, effectively ruling out a late Lions call-up.

Gray’s omission however seems to have come down to Gatland’s subjective selection policy. The former Glasgow Warrior scored a try in Exeter Chiefs Gallagher Premiership final defeat to Harlequins, but it looks like it’s going to be second time unlucky for the Scotland lock, who was also one of the most contentious omissions from Gatland’s 2017 squad for New Zealand.

The 6’8 Beard earned most of 25 caps under Gatland and he’s a player who debuted under the New Zealander.


“It’s very disappointing,” Gatland said in the immediate aftermath of Jones’ injury. “He’s been around rugby long enough but he’ll be gutted. We need to call someone in, get them PCR tested and hopefully get them on the flight tomorrow.

“The decision’s pretty much made. I was speaking to the physios and they’ve spoken to Alun Wyn. He understands the very best case scenario is that he may get back for the Tests.

“We’re discussing a couple of names at the moment with the coaches. Also potentially who will take over as tour captain. It’s very, very early days for us.”


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