British & Irish Lions

Gatland's toughest selection meeting: Dropping Faletau and Adams, benching Murray and Farrell

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Warren Gatland for the British & Irish Lions
Warren Gatland for the British & Irish Lions
PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP

Warren Gatland made numerous shock omissions to his team for the first British and Irish Lions series Test against the Springboks in Cape Town on Saturday.

Dropping his trusted lieutenant, established Welsh No 8 Taulupe Faletau and compatriot Josh Adams, who has lit up the tour with eight tries in four matches, couldn't have been easy.

What's more, stand-in skipper Conor Murray was overlooked for Scotsman Ali Price at scrumhalf, while the veteran Irishman joined Owen Farrell on one of the most experienced substitutes benches in rugby.

But the Lions head coach said those decisions came after a long and arduous selection meeting with his assistants that he added was the hardest he had ever been in.

"It was an hour-and-a-half meeting, the hardest selection meeting I've ever been in," said Gatland.

"I asked the coaches to come with their 23's, and they were all different. In the pack, we had four of the same eight and only three of the same seven between the five of us.

"We all had to debate positions and compromise on selections. It shows how tough it was, but it's a great position to be in because there were so many players putting their hands up and making it difficult for us.

"That's the way it should be. I know a lot of people think it's the team that I select, and that's never been the way, whether I'm with Wales or the Lions.

"It's important that as coaches, we all have an input into the squad."

Gatland furthermore demanded that the rest of the players not involved against South Africa this weekend prepare the matchday 23 squad adequately at training.

The result was a Tuesday training session that was so brutal captain Alun Wyn Jones quipped at the press conference, "We questioned Gats (Gatland) whether there were caps involved for the session we had."

"I expect the guys to be disappointed about missing out on selection," said Gatland.

"We've spoken about how it's not just the matchday 23 but about the whole squad. Everyone has put up their hands, and we're really pleased with a lot of their form.

"They've been absolutely brilliant in how they've responded to preparing the squad for the Test match.

"No one has taken a backward step in the last couple of training sessions, and we had a pretty tasty training session yesterday (Tuesday) with a lot of niggle and stuff. It's exactly what we wanted.

"I take my hat off to the guys; they really fronted up."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British and Irish Lions

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)

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