Category Archive: New Zealand Rugby

New Zealand Rugby News

Apr 22

Warren Gatland’s Lions stock up for brutal schedule in New Zealand

The tourists have a mountain to climb but they have supplemented their squad and, despite claims their programme is ‘suicidal’, they relish the task ahead

Touring New Zealand is rugby union’s equivalent of climbing Everest. As the Lions start to prepare for their latest assault, having barely got beyond base camp on their last visit 12 years ago, the scale of the ascent can be measured in two statistics: one series won out of 11 and six victories in 38 Tests.

On the 2005 tour, which was planned with military precision, the Lions faced provincial teams in the buildup to the Test series, but this summer they face all five of New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises, along with the Maori All Blacks, in an itinerary the former New Zealand head coach Graham Henry, who spearheaded the Lions’ trip to Australia in 2001 and four years later was in charge of the All Blacks, has described as suicidal.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/22/warren-gatland-lions-new-zealand

Apr 20

Ireland’s win over New Zealand ‘will not give Lions advantage’, says Andy Farrell

• Gatland’s assistant says Chicago win will not give players any ‘super power’
• Steve Hansen warns Lions ‘clutching at straws’ if they focus on Ireland’s win

Ireland’s historic victory over New Zealand in Chicago does not give the Lions a psychological advantage this summer, according to Andy Farrell, amid accusations from the All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen, that Warren Gatland is “clutching at straws” if he thinks otherwise.

Hansen countered Gatland’s claim that Ireland’s first win over New Zealand in 111 years, during November, proved the All Blacks were fallible by pointing to his side’s win in Dublin two weeks later and fired some shots of his own following the Lions squad announcement, questioning the omission of the England captain, Dylan Hartley, and taking aim at Johnny Sexton.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/20/steve-hansen-england-captain-dylan-hartley-asset-lions-rugby-union-tour-new-zealand

Apr 20

Gatland’s Lions will follow Ireland and look to feed off All Black mistakes

Eddie Jones’s glorious England revolution has come too late for this tour. Like Ireland and Wales, the Lions will seek territory and set-piece mastery

John Kingston was in a state of shock when he was invited to stand in front of a camera last Friday night minutes after Harlequins had lost to Exeter at The Stoop. The club’s director of rugby wore the air of a man who, in the words of PG Wodehouse, had searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.

The match had been the most effervescent in the Premiership this season, fizzing with movement, daring, skill and the outrageous. Quins were at their most swashbuckling, one movement containing offloads from their props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler bore a New Zealand trademark, and in going on 192 runs in the match covered more than 500 metres with ball in hand and made 230 passes.

Related: Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

Related: Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/20/gatland-lions-ireland-all-blacks-mistakes-england-wales-breakdown

Apr 19

Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

• Gatland names extended 41-man squad to face All Blacks
• Sam Warburton named captain with Dylan Hartley left out for Jamie George

Warren Gatland believes superior goalkicking can catapult the British & Irish Lions to a first series win against New Zealand since 1971. After selecting an extended squad of 41, with the Wales back-row Ross Moriarty and the Ireland centre Jared Payne among the surprise inclusions, Gatland also claimed he has picked a touring party with the firepower to match the All Blacks up front.

With Gatland confirming Owen Farrell has been picked as fly-half, along with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar of Wales, the Lions head coach has packed his squad with goalkickers – Leigh Halfpenny, the player of the series four years ago, has also been selected along with England’s Elliot Daly, who possesses a thunderous left boot.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/19/british-irish-lions-squad-sam-warburton-captain

Apr 19

Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

Warren Gatland has selected an abrasive and battle-hardened Lions squad for the formidable challenge of taking on the All Blacks in their own backyard

There can be a slight sense of anticlimax in the immediate aftermath of a British & Ireland Lions squad announcement. Not every deserving individual gets picked, not every country feels fairly represented and the brutal realities of the schedule, particularly this summer, are not easily ignored. It generally takes a while for everyone to calm down and appreciate precisely what the selectors are seeking to achieve.

In the case of the 2017 Lions, ultimately, it is less the shortage of Scots that leaps out than the bristling bundle of competitive energy heading New Zealand’s way. This is not a squad picked for some vague trip to a generic location but specifically with the world champions’ backyard in mind. Warren Gatland is a Kiwi himself and not one of the 41 seats on the plane south will be filled by a player who dissolves at the first hint of pressure.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: Lions 2017 squad announcement: Warburton captain, no place for Hartley – as it happened

Related: Sam Warburton: ‘If you get criticism, so be it – you take rough with smooth’

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/19/british-lions-2017-all-blacks-warren-gatland-sam-warburton

Apr 19

Lions 2017 squad announcement: Warburton captain, no place for Hartley – as it happened

  • No place for Dylan Hartley or Joe Launchbury in Lions squad
  • Sam Warburton named as captain for second time
  • Sixteen English players picked, but just two Scots
  • Gatland criticised for “favouritism” towards Welsh

4.06pm BST

Related: Sam Warburton to captain Lions but England’s Dylan Hartley misses out

3.54pm BST

For one last time, here’s who made the cut. Warren Gatland’s selection policy has proved predictably controversial, with many feeling that several in-form Scottish players have been left out in favour of ageing Welshmen who have been picked on reputation rather than Autumn international or Six Nations form. Shades of Clive Woodward in 2005 there, methinks and look at the drubbings that lot took from the All Blacks. No doubt some players will succumb to injury between now and June, so there will be inevitably be new additions to the squad as various unfortunate players are forced to pull out.

3.48pm BST

OK, folks – we’re going to wind down this blog now, but please feel free to continues discussing Warren Gatlland’s selections in our comments section. Thanks you all for your contributions and stay tuned for incoming analysis and comment from our rugby writers Rob Kitson, Paul Rees, Gerard Meagher and Andy Bull.

3.36pm BST

And in my opinion it’s difficult to disagree with much of what he says. “You can argue some marginal calls that have favoured Welsh players derive from national bias or nepotism, but as others have pointed out the so-called controversial picks like Leigh Halfpenny have been players short of serious competition elsewhere,” he says.
“Such debate is, in my view, missing the point. The squad can be exciting or as predictable as the coach makes it, and in selecting Farrell as a 10, it is the style of play that concerns me most. Farrell and Sexton in tandem could be an axis of glorious creativity, spinning webs even the All Blacks may struggle to master. Boshing it up with the middle with any combination of Te’o, Henshaw or Jonathan Davies will be anything but.
“In his immediate post-announcement interview, Gatland has already earmarked Te’o as a potential 12, rather than 13. Given Wales’ record v New Zealand employing similar stick-it-up-the-jumper tactics, a foreboding omen.”

3.34pm BST

“I think the issue is that Gatland has picked a squad that will play one way and if that doesn’t work there will be no Plan B,” he or she says.

Sadly the squad looks pretty much as expected. I think the issue is that Gatland has picked a squad that will play one way and if that doesn’t work there will be no plan B. I would have liked to see more players in there who have the flair and the ability to do the unexpected, like Russell. Yes, he and some others would have been a risk, but playing it safe with crashball will at best end in a 2 – 1 defeat, possibly a 3 – 0 loss.

3.20pm BST

I will spare this particular simple Simon’s blushes by not publishing his surname, but his email is a belter. “What I know about rugby you could write on the back of a Serge Blanco fag packet, but 12 Welshmen and only 2 Scots seems a bit lopsided?” he writes. “And why no French or Italians?”

On the British Irish Lions? Who wants to tell him?

3.17pm BST

Somebody in the BT Sport graphics department seems to have had a bit of a nightmare, although I should point out the minor error of obliterating most of Ireland has since been rectified. My own home town of Birr, Co. Offaly was originally wiped out of existence, along with the rest of the Republic of Ireland …. which was rather worrying.

A few geography lessons needed @btsportrugby pic.twitter.com/JNm5M4PoRs

3.10pm BST

“It has been interesting and predictable reading the feedback and responses to the selections Gatland as chosen especially the size and players chosen from the Welsh sector,” he says. “For me I am both surprised and pleased, being Welsh and disappointed in the performances in the six nations of Wales I would hate to have seen only a small of Welsh players taken on this tour and totally ignored the stupid idea of taking Jamie Roberts who is well passed his best and he would be the first to accept that.

“For all those who disapprove ask yourself in a non-biased way why Gatland has selected these actual players and then compare their counterparts in other countries. Do they have the same pedigree, length of experience and international proven record? Yes their form may not be the best but also look at what they were asked to do in the six nations under Robert Howley, whose lack of judgement and inexperience was clearly shown against Scotland but proven against Ireland. Thus the latter was the main reason for selecting these particular Welsh players in that they knew what they had to do to win at all costs.”

3.03pm BST

I really like the squad chosen overall, some unlucky players but you can’t take everyone. Don’t understand what JD2 and Halfpenny have done to get into the team but oh well.

I see a lot of people are complaining about Kruis, the guy is the best line out caller and scrummager in the NH and has been unlucky with injuries. If he is fit, launchbury will not start in the england team as eddie jones has shown. I think it came down to lawes and launchbury and lawes has massively improved his ball carrying while, being considerably better at the line out and restarts than launchbury.

2.59pm BST

Just a reminder of who has been picked for Warren Gatland’s squad.

2.54pm BST

With several of the players named today involved in the Aviva Premiership playoffs and Pro12 latter stages, will those picked for the Lions go into self-preservation and injury-avoidance mode?

I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on how this announcement will affect the players who may be involved in the Aviva Premiership playoffs? Austin Healey wrote the other day that it is possible that once given the nod for the Lions some players may go into a self-preservation mode to avoid injury. Given the number of Saracens players now involved, I wonder is this has offered some marginal benefit to say the Chiefs. Conversely, will the non-selection play on the minds of some of the wasps players such as Haskell and Launchbury? I have a feeling they are far too professional.

2.50pm BST

My gratitude goes out to each and every one of you who have posted, but James 221 will always have a special place in my heart for reading them all and condensing the general mood into this bite-sized comment.

Consensus of comments below so far:
Luckiest players to be on plane – Biggar, Davies & Halfpenny
Unluckiest player to miss plane – Launchbury

2.47pm BST

Just to put this video in context, the most noteworthy thing to ever happen me in a supermarket car-park involved me hitting myself in the face with my own car boot door, prompting my nose to start pouring blood. Due to my not having any tissues or hankies to hand, I ended up trying to staunch the flow and clean my face with an oily rag and driving home looking like an extra from the Walking Dead. Warburton 1-0 Glendenning.

2.43pm BST

Readers Redxabi Brady and Bayviewdreamer are displeased with Warren Gatland’s selection. Very displeased.

Disgraceful selection. I guess I will be rooting for the AB’s. They have more players with Scottish heritage on that team.

12 Welshmen and two Scots. Scotland beat Wales in the 6N and finished above them. They also beat Ireland. England were the best team alot of the time but not always , Ireland beat them and the French should have . Gatland and Co must really hate the Scots. I think both Hogg and Seymour should not bother going as they are unlikely to be chosen. Ridiculous choice of captain, should have been Best. I for one along with many others will not be watching the games All Blacks and midweek teams to beat the Lions. Gatland has no tactical nous

2.31pm BST

Gregor Paul, the New Zealand Herald on Sunday’s rugby writer says “big pats on the back will be coming for Warren Gatland after he unveiled a Lions squad that has equal parts conservatism, boldness, adventure and graft”. In a state of affairs that suggests he may not have accurately guaged the mood round Northern Hemisphere way, Paul goes on to say that Gatland “has balanced his nationalities in proportions that should prevent accusations of favouritism”.

“Has he picked a squad that is good enough to win the test series?” asks Gregor. “Does he have the players at his disposal to beat the All Blacks in two tests in their own backyard? That’s where it gets a little harder to be so enthusiastic about the Lions.”

2.21pm BST

Some interesting analysis from Jarwen7. Warren Gatland said that the centre and second row positions provided the biggest selection headaches and prompted the most lively discussion among him and his fellow selectors.

Happy the rumours proved false, very strong squad picked with a few marginal calls here and there that could have gone either way, however some questions to be had with out-of-form Welsh backs;

-Props look very good, though Cian Healy might go but Marler edges him
-No surprises with selection at Hooker. Thought Hartley should go for his set piece but probably wouldn’t have started the tests anyway, nor would Fraser Brown.
-Would like to see the Itoje-Kruis partnership in the Tests, but I can see Gatland going for AWJ. Jonny Gray and Launchbury unlucky not to tour but 2nd Row was probably the most competitive position.
-Pleased for Moriarty, excellent against England, but Hamish Watson is unlucky not to be touring (though Haskell could sneak in, but he unlikely to have featured in the tests anyway).
-Billy V and Faletau the standout 8s, no other eligible 8s really pushed for selection.
-Murray and Webb the strongest Scrum Halves, agree with Youngs as 3rd choice also for his kicking game. Care not really needed when Webb is in there.
-Sexton and Farrell the two easy choices at 10. Don’t think Biggar has shown enough form recently, would have chosen Russell ahead of him as 3rd choice, and possibly Ford though he’s not been at his best either.
-Expected Zebo to be included but the Wingers are all very good, and whilst North hasn’t been firing on all cylinders consistently recently he’s world class on his day and warrants inclusion. Though I would liked to have seen Wade sneak in as a bolter.
-Think that Henshaw and Joseph will be starters for the Tests. Not sure what JD2 has shown recently to be included, Ringrose would have been my choice ahead of him at Outside Center. Would have chosen Huw Jones ahead of both but for injury.
-Hogg should be inked into the starting XV, way out in front at Fullback. Halfpenny has not been in the greatest form but there isn’t really anyone else who put their hand up for inclusion in my opinion.
-Unsure if Daly will play on the Wing or at Outside Centre but I think he will feature at some point in the Tests, fully deserved.

2.03pm BST

BohemianGirl thinks he’s missing the point and here’s why …

Moore misses the point. He says we all need to get behind the Lyons squad and stop bi*ching that players from our own nations have not been picked.

But it’s precisely because we ARE square behind the Lyons squad that we’re unhappy. I am Irish and my second fav team is Wales. But it’s a downer to know that the Lyons squad being sent to NZ comprises many of Gatland’s favourite people and not the cream of the crop of actual players on these islands. Scotland is way ahead of Wales in world rankings as well as in player quality as displayed in the 6N. It’s a joke that so many tired and jaded Welsh players will represent us alongside only two Scottish.

1.59pm BST

The son of a Samoan father and an English mother, the Worcester and England outside centre was a bit of a surprise selection and says he’s “a bit relieved” and “really proud to have the opportunity to play for the British and Irish Lions”. He says he will bring a bit of physicality and strong ball-carrying to the party and isn’t sure whether the fact that he was born in New Zealand and spent much of his life there will be any help to him when he goes on tour with the Lions. He has some previous with his Lions captain Sam Warburton, who might want to discuss this at their first training session. Hard but fair, as the saying goes. Very hard.

1.49pm BST

Stoveboy has a theory regarding the absence of all but two Scots from Warren Gatland’s squad.

Hello, I feel our capitulation st twickenham was telling. A pressure cooker environment with an in form team. Had it been close a few more scots would be on the plane. I have no idea why lauchbery isn’t going but the other big omissions English wise are based on temperament or being seen as a potential liability in the heat of NZ rugby.

1.46pm BST

Thanks for all the extremely kind messages. Amazing honour to captain the @lionsofficial again. Squad looks very very strong! #AllForOne

1.44pm BST

Peter reckons that … well, see for yourself. A genuine grievance? An unlikely conspiracy theory? Or a little from Column A and a little from Column B? I think Peter makes some good points, which are undermined by his apparent certainty that Gatland picked his squad with one eye on what will happen once the tour ends and he goes back to his day job with Wales.

Glendinning misrepresents the reaction to the squad announcement by implying that supporters of all nations are having a moan about something or other. I know he has to listen and type and I only have to read, but it’s obvious that the consensus is that Wales players have been systematically favoured in marginal calls and that this has disproportionately impacted on Scotland’s representation in the squad.

This was fairly predictable – as Wales coach Gatland quite naturally has one eye on the post-tour world and has a vested interest in keeping his key players on-side. And it’s only natural that he will feel more secure working with players that he knows and who know him and how he likes to play. But quite apart from being unfair on individual players, the broader consequence of this self-interest is to undermine support from Scotland fans, which is damaging to the whole Lions concept.

1.37pm BST

Brian Moore has a message for people bellyaching about who has and hasn’t been included in the squad.

Lions – you aren’t a true fan if there are terms on your support (.ie. pick my players)- all in it together or not: bitch when it’s over.

1.28pm BST

Congrats to all those selected for the British & Irish lions!

1.26pm BST

William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly was first out of the traps with some odds for the forthcoming Lions tour. His firm make New Zealand white-hot 1-4 favourites to win the series, with a 3-0 series win priced up at 4-5. The Lions are 3-1 to win the series with the most likely score if they do being 2-1 offered at 6/1.

“Gatland has named a strong squad despite a couple of notable absentees but despite this, we think that All Blacks will be far too strong and it would be a success to even win one Test,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.

1.21pm BST

He says he appreciates that some Scottish folk will be very annoyed with him, but says picking the squad was not about filling national quotas. He says that he and his fellow selectors went through the squad position by position and picked who they thought were the best players to fill each one regardless of nationality.

1.18pm BST

“We know we’re going to the toughest place in the world to play and to tour. Culturally as well, we’ll need to adapt, he says, going on to joke that there’ll be plenty of choir practice in the coming weeks. On Owen Farrell: “Don’t discount Dan Biggar,” he says, when asked if it will be a straight battle between Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell for the out-half position on the Test team. He confirms that Farrell could play elsewhere in the team.

1.15pm BST

On Dylan Hartley’s omission: “I think it was a discussion that Dylan’s done a great job for England since he started captaining the team, but we felt like we couldn’t leave out Jamie George. Rory Best and Ken Owens had great Six Nations as well … Dylan is very unlucky not to be in the squad, but somebody else would have been very unlucky if he had been included.”

1.12pm BST

The Lions head coach says the midfield and the second rows were the toughest selections to make. He reveals that leaving Joe Launchbury out was a very difficult decision and says that taking Ben T’eo was a big call. “There was some lively discussions about the second rows, the hookers and the midfield,” he reveals. “Sam has got the honour of captaining the team on topur, but if somebody else is playing better than him we’ll have no problem selecting them ahead of him in the Tests,” he says of his captain.

1.07pm BST

Despite having 16 players in the squad, some England fans are ticked off because Joe Launchbury, George Ford, Dylan Hartley and others have not been picked. The Irish are fed up because Munster and Ireland flanker Donnacha Ryan hasn’t been picked. The Scots are unhappy because they’ve only got two players in the squad and the Welsh are unhappy because Gatland has defied expectations by naming some players in his squad who are English, Irish and Scottish.

1.01pm BST

Wow! Warren Gatland definitely seems to have put the cat among the pigeons with his announcement. Melonforce makes an interesting point …

Well, it’s Gatland’s call, and he better hope these guys like Halfpenny, North, Warburton, AWJ, Davies and Biggar come good for him, because if they don’t he’s going to get absolutely slaughtered (and so are they to be fair). There are better players than them right now who will be sitting at home, so he must think he can get something out of these guys that none of them have shown over the last year or so. It’s a bold call to say the least.

12.56pm BST

Captain: Sam Warburton (Wales)
Coach: Warren Gatland (Wales coach, nationality New Zealand)
Original squad (refers to players initially selected – replacement players not included): England 10 players, Ireland 9, Scotland 3, Wales 15.
Test selection: England 20 appearances/9 starts, Ireland 14/11, Scotland 1/0, Wales 29/25.
Wales’ back-to-back Six Nations champions – Grand Slam winners in 2012 – provided 15 of the 37-man squad and more than half of the players in the starting line-ups under their established coach and captain. Full-back Leigh Halfpenny was the chief inspiration for a 2-1 series win and a record 41 points in the deciding third Test. Coach Gatland and captain Warburton remain in charge for 2017.

12.50pm BST

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

12.47pm BST

“It’s a very surreal thing to experience,” he says of taking the call from Gatland. “It’s an amazing honour even though he’d asked me to do it before. I didn’t see myself as a contender for the captaincy, but now in hindsight it’s a real thrill.” He goes on to say that Gatland first inquired about his injured knee and then had a general chat before asking him to captain the side. Despite no longer captaining Wales, he is happy to take on the role of Lions captain. “It’s very difficult to lead a side when you feel you’re not hitting your straps,” he says of his decision to relinquish the Wales captaincy and focus on returning to form.

12.41pm BST

It’s fair to say they’re not buzzing about their man’s omission …

All gobsmacked here that Joe Launchbury wont be with @lionsofficial. 2 motm’s in a 6 Nations winning campaign & player of the comp nominee

12.37pm BST

At various points this morning we heard that Jonathan Joseph would not be included in Warren Gatland’s squad and that Jamie Roberts definitely would. Both leaks have turned out to be complete cobblers. Rumours regarding the omission of Dylan Hartley, Joe Launchbury, George Ford and Mike Brown turned out to be true.

12.34pm BST

It seems that Warren Gatland has said it will be a straight-up contest between Owen Farrell and Jonny Sexton for the out-half position in the Test team. Whether or not that means Farrell will not be considered as a centre remains unclear.

12.32pm BST

And here are the chaps who’ll be playing behind them.

12.30pm BST

Here are the bulldozers Warren Gatland will be bringing to New Zealand.

12.28pm BST

Warren Gatland has picked 16 Englishmen, 12 Welshmen, 11 Irishmen and just two Scots. On Sky Sports News, Will Greenwood is making the very salient point that anyone who has missed out on selection should button their lips and complain to nobody other than their mums. There will almost certainly be players named in this squad who won’t make the plane to New Zealand and replacements will be needed.

12.23pm BST

Backs: Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Conor Murray (Ireland), George North (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Jared Payne (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Ben T’eo (England), Anthony Watson (England), Rhys Webb (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Ben Youngs (England)

Forwards: Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), George Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England), Billy Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (Wales, capt).

12.21pm BST

As expected, Dylan Hartley has been omitted from the British and Irish Lions squad and becomes the third successive England captain to miss out on selection, along with Chris Robshaw and Steve Borthwick.
Head coach Warren Gatland has selected a 41-man squad for the 10 fixtures culminating in a three-Test series against New Zealand, including surprise call-ups for Ireland full-back Jared Payne, England wing Jack Nowell and Wales back row Ross Moriarty.

12.17pm BST

“The competition for places … there’s going to be some players fighting for Test spots and there’s no stand-out number one contender for several positions,” he says. “We need to make sure we’ve got the depth and quality in the squad to face the challenges.”

12.16pm BST

“It’s an immensely strong squad,” he says. “It gives me a tremendous amount of confidence.”

12.15pm BST

“We’ve picked the toughest competitors,” he says. As various members of Warren Gatland’s backroom team speak, there seems to be an air of genuine excitement. “They want to be on a winning tour,” says Andy Farrell.

12.13pm BST

“It’s hard to put it into words really,” says the captain. He reveals he found out last Thursday in a supermarket car-park while waiting for his wife to buy some bread and milk. “There’ll be no doubt I’ll be 100% fit for the start of the tour,” he says when asked about any injury concerns he might have.

12.11pm BST

Rory Best, Dan Cole, Taulupe Faletau, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Ross Moriarty, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Sam Warburton (captain).

12.08pm BST

Backs: Dan Biggar, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Leigh Halfpenny, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Hogg, Jonathan Joseph, Conor Murray, George North, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Seymour, Ben Te’o, Anthony Watson, Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Ben Youngs

12.06pm BST

The Lions Tour manager was a member of the only British and Irish Lions squad to beat New Zealand.

12.05pm BST

Warren Gatland and his backroom team have been introduced and have taken their places on the stage. Gatland announces that “after some pretty lively debate” they settled on the final squad late yesterday afternoon. “As a coaching team we’re really excited by the quality and talent we’re bringing on tour.”

12.02pm BST

The gentlemen of the press have taken their seats and are waiting to hear who is in and who is out. It seems a certainty that Jamie Roberts will not be included, despite no end of speculation to the contrary.

11.57am BST

More rumour and speculation, but we’re hearing that New Zealand-born Ireland international back Jared Payne will be getting a free trip back to his old home. His fellow Irish internationals Keith Earls and Donnacha Ryan will not be joining him.

11.46am BST

The word coming out of the Hilton London Synon Park is that Jamie Roberts will not – repeat not – be in the squad. As Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman famously said, nobody anywhere knows anything. We’ll find out soon enough.

11.40am BST

They report that Paul Stridgeon, the Lions head of strength and conditioning, has said his players will need to be at least 10% fitter than they were in Australia in 2013. Stridgeon has taken over from Adam Beard as the fitness guru and will begin whipping is charges into shape at two training camps at the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales and Carton House in Ireland.

11.28am BST

Lilaitomniweotawicha sets the early tone for what could be a very entertaining and amusing day below the line.

apparently, Jamie Roberts has also been pencilled in for the 2021 and 2025 tours.

11.23am BST

Rumours on Planet Rugby suggest the Ireland skipper Rory Best will be included in Warren Gatland’s squad at the expense of Dylan Hartley. Best, Ken Owens and Jamie George will make up the trio of hookers travelling to New Zealand. While the England captain is likely to be one of several high profile England omissions, Ben Te’o, Elliot Daly, Joe Marler and Maro Itoje are all expected to become first-time Lions. Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip and Scotland lock Jonny Gray are also expected to miss out, while 91 times-capped Wales centre Jamie Roberts, who toured with the Lions in 2009 and 2013, could be a surprise inclusion despite starting just two Tests for Wales this season and spending the entire Six Nations campaign opn the bench. New Zealand-born Te’o, who has made one England start in eight appearances, is believed to have earned his passage to New Zealand with an eye-catching performance for Wrocester against Bath in the Aviva Premiership four days ago.

11.07am BST

Related: Warren Gatland can give Lions nous and substance for All Blacks challenge | Robert Kitson

11.05am BST

One hour to go….#AllForOne

Live blog: https://t.co/MvLyanu35c
Live stream: https://t.co/I9cTGbUs2c pic.twitter.com/KeXiFJl4HR

11.04am BST

Warren Gatland was appointed head coach in September last year and the 52-year-old immediately went on sabbatical from his position as Wales head coach to focus on this, his second stint in charge of the Lions. Four years ago, he masterminded a 2-1 series win over Australia, an experience he described as “a real career highlight”. This tour is likely to be tougher, with the Lions having won just one series in 11 previous trips to New Zealand. In 1971, Welshman Carwyn James was in charge when his compatriot John Dawes captained the Lions to a 2-1 series win over the All Blacks.

“Coaching the Lions is a great privilege,” said Gatland at his unveiling. “The 2013 tour was a real career highlight for me and I’m honoured to be offered the role again. For the All Blacks a Lions series is the ultimate test, but I’m 100% confident that we can go and win in New Zealand. The chance to work with the best players from the four Home Nations is a coach’s dream and we have some outstanding talent to select from.”

11.04am BST

At midday (BST), tour manager John Spencer will reveal the names of the players who have been selected and confirm the worst kept secret in rugby – that Sam Warburton will be captain. After the announcement, Warren Gatland and his coaching party will field questions from the media – including the Guardian’s crack team of rugby union reporters Robert Kitson, Paul Rees and Gerard Meagher – and our writers will get tip-tapping on their laptops to bring you their take on the squad: omissions, inclusions and any other news lines that arise. Gatland’s squad selection is bound to prompt no end of debate and quite a bit of parochial bellyaching, so we’d love to hear your thoughts and musings in the comments section below.

As an aside, Guardian rugby enthusiasts will be painfully aware that the late, great Dan Lucas should really be helming this rolling blog and on a day that marks the announcement of the Lions squad and the 30th anniversary of his favourite TV show, The Simpsons, please feel free to take a moment to remember a top bloke who left us far too soon. See you on the other side, comrade.

Related: Dan Lucas, Guardian cricket and rugby union writer, dies aged 31

10.57am BST

As Robert Kitson has written in his selection preview, Wales Centre Jamie Roberts is likely to be a surprise inclusion at the expense of England’s Jonathan Joseph. Rumoursa from the England camp suggest Joseph is one of several high profile England players likely to miss out, along with George Ford, Mike Brown, Joe Launchbury, James Haskell and Chris Robshaw. England captain and hooker Dylan Hartley may also be a conspicuous absentee from the squad touring his native New Zealand, with Ireland’s Rory Best and Wales’s Ken Owens the favourite to squeeze him out of contention. If these rumours prove correct, it would appear that Gatland sees power and strength, rather than subtlety, as the key to beating New Zealand this summer.

10.57am BST

The British and Irish Lions will play 10 matches in all on their first tour of New Zealand since 2005, including three Tests against the All Blacks.

Related: Wales centre Jamie Roberts set to make cut in Gatland’s Lions squad

8.59am BST

After months of debate and speculation, Warren Gatland will name his squad for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand at noon (BST) today, identifying the 40 or so players who will be tasked with securing a series win over the All Blacks for the first time in four attempts since 1971. Gatland will make his announcement at the Hilton London Synon Park, where the early evidence suggests that Cardiff Blues and Wales flanker Sam Warburton will be named as captain for a second successive Lions Tour.

What a lovely photo of a great Cardiff player. A very, very special player. Congratulations, Sam pic.twitter.com/faG5EtlM0C

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2017/apr/19/lions-2017-squad-announcement-live-british-irish-rugby-union-new-zealand-all-blacks

Apr 18

Warren Gatland can give Lions nous and substance for All Blacks challenge | Robert Kitson

Whatever squad is unveiled on Wednesday, there should be enough ballast in the Lions party to compete in rugby’s most formidable environment in New Zealand

Soon enough the longest wait in rugby will be over. Warren Gatland can still expect loads of advice between now and the first Test against the All Blacks on 24 June but after this week’s selection excitement the tone will swiftly change. Picking a British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand is a lot easier than coming back victorious.

It certainly pays to hear from those who have made the same trek in the past and experienced, rugby-wise, a parallel universe. “Their rugby was different from anything I had experienced before; at times it was just wave after wave after wave,” recalled Ollie Campbell, the great Irish fly-half who was part of the 1983 squad. “It was like standing on the beach trying to keep the tide back; eventually it just goes over you.”

Related: England’s Joe Launchbury and Jonathan Joseph to miss out on Lions squad

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/18/lions-warren-gatland-all-blacks

Apr 17

A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

The particulars of the selection and announcement of the Lions squad may have changed a bit since 1888, but the tension players and selectors feel has endured

Suffice it to say the process of Lions selection has changed over the years. The first tour in 1888 was dreamt up by three cricketers and was on the whole comprised of players from northern England looking to make a few quid. One of them, Jack Clowes, was even banned from playing any of the matches by the RFU for accepting a generous £15 kit allowance on the eve of the tour – he spent eight months away without officially playing a game.

Related: Ben Youngs makes a ‘nice little last push’ for Lions squad place

Related: Lions squad: two-tone approach may throw Warburton and Hartley a lifeline | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/17/british-lions-squad-announcement-selection-new-zealand-tour

Apr 14

‘Big Cats’, brand reviews and the rampant commercialism of the Lions | Gerard Meagher

No Lions tour before 1991 made a profit but, with 35,000 fans expected to descend on New Zealand and 11 major sponsors, the brand is now big business

Regardless of what is on the menu at London’s Hurlingham Club, it will not match the delicious irony served up a week next Wednesday. It is an evening with the “Cambridge University Big Cats” and, if the billing sounds contrived, it is because the British & Irish Lions have instructed them to drop “Lions” from the title. Quite apart from the fact that Cambridge have provided the Lions with 73 tourists over the years – more than any single club – among the legends due to be present is John Spencer, who happens to be manager of this summer’s tour of New Zealand. It would not be surprising to hear of him making a swift exit after dinner.

If it seems like heavy-handed ring-fencing, the Lions would point out that their brand is a shooting star – every four years it burns brightly but not for long – and that they have a duty to their sponsors. They also have charity dinners to sell out themselves and the next is in Edinburgh the day after Cambridge’s – a seat is yours for £249. It raises the question of whether the Lions as a brand has jumped the shark. As a commercial product, has it become a monster?

Related: Can Warren Gatland afford to leave Dylan Hartley out of Lions squad? | Paul Rees

Related: ‘Phenomenal’ Maro Itoje relishing new role as lineout leader | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/14/british-irish-lions-brand-commercialism-sponsors-warren-gatland

Apr 12

Sonny Bill Williams permitted to wear kit free of alcohol and gambling logos

• Williams’s Muslim faith means that he objects to wearing certain sponsors
• ‘It is important to me that I do the right thing with regards to my faith’

The New Zealand World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams will not have to wear Auckland Blues’ kit that includes specific logos.

Williams’s Muslim faith means that he objects to wearing clothing that markets banks, alcohol and gambling companies. He taped over a logo for BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) on his Blues kit for last weekend’s Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders.

Related: ‘Phenomenal’ Maro Itoje relishing new role as lineout leader | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/12/sonny-bill-williams-kit-alcohol-gambling-logos

Apr 08

Courtney Lawes hunts Lions spot in New Zealand after England power play

The Northampton forward forced his way into a stocked England back row by changing his training regime and hopes to round off a career-defining season by facing down the All Blacks

At the start of the season, Courtney Lawes’s prospects of making the British & Irish Lions tour this summer looked even more distant than New Zealand itself. Second row was the best stocked of all the positions and the 28-year-old Saint had fallen behind George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury in the England lock hierarchy.

Lawes has had more than his share of injuries during his career and when Itoje and Kruis were ruled out of the start of England’s autumn international campaign, the Northampton forward, who had started one match in the 2016 Six Nations and was a replacement on the summer tour to Australia, was given an opportunity. He seized it with such force that when Itoje returned for this year’s championship, the Saracen was picked at blindside flanker.

Related: Courtney Lawes credits England coach Eddie Jones for his return to form

Related: England’s Courtney Lawes: ‘If you play less you would be a better player’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/08/courtney-lawes-lions-new-zealand-england-power-play

Mar 21

Warren Gatland refines search for bearers of Lions pride | Robert Kitson

Coach has four weeks to put together a squad capable of overpowering the All Blacks for the first time since 1971

Picking the best British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand has long been a fraught job. In 1993, as now, England had just lost to Ireland in Dublin on the final weekend and the selectors were required to gather the following day. “We spent the next eight hours arguing,” recalls the then assistant coach Dick Best. “At one stage we had 21 England players on the tour but because we’d lost to Ireland it got whittled down to 17. Afterwards Ian McGeechan said: ‘I’m not going again unless I can select the team.’”

Related: Six Nations 2017 verdict: Guardian writers choose their highs and lows

The hardest thing is normally the last four or five players, with the right personalities, people who are going to be good tourists

Related: New Zealand media on England loss: ‘Stuffed plastic bags in need of a trolley’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/21/british-irish-lions-contenders-tour-new-zealand

Mar 19

New Zealand media on England loss: ‘Stuffed plastic bags in need of a trolley’

The two sides’ winning sequence battle has ended in a draw with some claiming it is in fact Ireland who are the All Blacks’ closest challengers

Eddie Jones has a habit of being at his most honest straight after matches. After England’s victory over Italy he was not playing ball but a better example was when, after beating Wales, he made his true feelings known about the Principality Stadium roof controversy, saying rugby union is “a winter sport”.

Jones is also always at pains to protect his players so, when he talked on Saturday evening of how keen England were to face New Zealand later this year, it felt like an obvious way to deflect from being outfought and out-thought by Ireland – even though there was no doubt some truth in it.

Related: Bravo England on 18 in a row but Cyprus beat rats, kicks and punches for 24 | Simon Burnton

Related: ‘Congratulations England’: reading between the lines in New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/19/new-zealand-media-react-england-loss-ireland

Mar 13

Eddie Jones stokes All Blacks rivalry but warns of Ireland backlash

• England coach likens New Zealand’s Steve Hansen to Big Bad Wolf
• ‘Winning back-to-back grand slams is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

Eddie Jones has stoked the rivalry between England and New Zealand by comparing his All Black counterpart, Steve Hansen, to the cunning Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood and warning his players not to be seduced by the warm words of praise from the southern hemisphere over the weekend.

New Zealand’s head coach was complimentary about England following their 61-21 win against Scotland, suggesting they looked fitter and more motivated than they had done previously. Jones, however, suspects Hansen of trying to lull his squad – and, potentially, the British & Irish Lions – into a false sense of security. “It’s a bit like Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf when the wolf comes dressed up as the grandmother,” Jones said. “When an All Black coach is complimenting you, you always have to be careful.”

Related: England happy to wait until they can step out from All Blacks’ shadow | Andy Bull

Related: How England equalled New Zealand’s 18-match winning streak, match by match | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/13/eddie-jones-all-blacks-rivalry-ireland-grand-slam

Mar 09

What the All Blacks will have learned about Lions from this Six Nations so far | Paul Rees

England have been below their best and, while Scotland have shown quality, it’s another thing to take on the world champions in a running game

England are the only unbeaten team after three rounds of the Six Nations, but they are the only side that have not led at least once at half-time. A table based on the first half of matches would see Ireland on top, Italy third and England bottom.

Italy have led twice at half-time but they have scored in the second period in only one of their matches, at Twickenham where an unconverted try improved on their blanks against Wales and Ireland. While Wales improved markedly in the second half in Rome on the opening weekend, they washed down their interval tea with a mere three points in the next two.

Related: Six Nations: Vunipola brothers gunning for Scotland fuelled by sibling rivalry

Related: Jonny Gray leads Scotland Six Nations title charge but they can still improve | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/09/england-scotland-lions-new-zealand-all-blacks

Mar 04

Warren Gatland and would-be Lions: crunch time for North, Hartley and co | Paul Rees

With two weeks left to impress the coach, which players have put their hands up in the Six Nations and who might miss out on the tour to New Zealand?

Leigh Halfpenny looked the Test full-back from the start in 2013, not least because of his goal-kicking, but with Owen Farrell able to fill that role it is more open this year. Stuart Hogg offers the most in attack but his defence is suspect while the reverse is true of Halfpenny, whose threat with the ball in hand seems to diminish every year. Mike Brown’s “they don’t like it up ’em” approach is not likely to be enough in New Zealand while pace is an issue for Rob Kearney. Full-back may be filled by a player chosen in another position, such as Liam Williams or Elliot Daly, who offers a counterattacking threat while being a resolute last line of defence.

Related: Warren Gatland warning puts Lions on behaviour alert for New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/04/warren-gatland-lions-shortlist-north-hartley-new-zealand

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