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Warren Gatland's 'calamitous error' according to ex-Lions tour manager

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Ian Rutherford/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Former British & Irish Lions tour manager Donal Lenihan has said that omitting Liam Williams was a calamitous mistake on the part of head coach Warren Gatland.


The Lions fell to a heavy 27 – 9 defeat to the Springboks in Cape Town in the second Test and it’s now very much advantage South Africa heading into the third.

After dominating the aerial battle a week earlier, the Lions seeming inability to field high balls cost the side dear in the second half of the second Test, with Gatland’s back three selection coming in for heavy criticism over the weekend.

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Lenihan, writing in the Irish Examiner, wants a major overhaul of the back line. The 61-year-old, who toured as a Lion in 1983 and 1989, says that the back three selection of Stuart Hogg, Duhan Van Der Merwe and Anthony Watson were ‘badly’ exposed by the Springboks kicking tactics and that leaving Williams out entirely was a huge error.

The former Ireland second row has also called for mercurial Scottish flyhalf Finn Russell to be brought back into the matchday mix.

“Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe were badly exposed with the usually reliable Anthony Watson also suffering the jitters.”

Williams, dubbed the Bomb Defuser for his aerial prowess, was a surprise omission from the 23, having been a pre-tour favourite to take the Lions’ 15 jersey.


“If Gatland got away with the decision to omit Liam Williams from the starting side in the first test, he paid a big price for it this time round. The fact that he wasn’t even on the bench to shore things up was a calamitous error.

“In addition to Williams, a proven finisher of the quality of Josh Adams has to come back into the equation.

“To facilitate that, the midfield also needs tweaking with a shift of Robbie Henshaw to outside centre with Bundee Aki or Owen Farrell coming into the equation inside him.

Finn Russell
Finn Russell /PA

Lenihan also wants Finn Russell to be involved, injuries notwithstanding.

“If Finn Russell is fit, his capacity to add a bit of creativity off the bench must also come under consideration. Otherwise, what was the point in selecting him in the first place?”


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