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Gatland on Lions call over Sexton - 'I still probably ask myself now whether it was the right decision '

Sexton is one of nine Ireland players named in Gatland’s hypothetical 2022 Lions side.

Johnny Sexton celebrates Ireland's win over New Zealand.
Johnny Sexton celebrates Ireland's win over New Zealand.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

WARREN GATLAND HAS admitted he still wonders whether he made the right call in not selecting Johnny Sexton when the Lions toured South Africa last summer.

The Ireland captain was left at home but twelve months on, he has just come off the back of playing a key role in Ireland’s historic series win in New Zealand.

Gatland, writing in his column for The Telegraph, has picked his hypothetical matchday squad for the Lions after the recent 2022 summer tours.

And Sexton is one of nine Ireland players named in Gatland’s starting side with Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris.

Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter are included amongst the replacements.

“Quite simply he has earned the right to be there, even at the age of 37,” wrote Gatland about Sexton’s form.

“I think Marcus Smith is something special but if I want to win a game next week, Johnny has to start. You can’t take away from the impact he has had over the last year. In South Africa I was concerned about his injury record and whether he could get through the tour, and I still probably ask myself now whether it was the right decision to leave him at home.”

warren-gatland-and-jonathan-sexton Warren Gatland and Johnny Sexton during the 2017 Lions Tour. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Gatland also referenced how difficult it has been to pick the Lions squad and Test side.

“I know I have not always got it right. Some of my selections I still turn over in my head to this day. At the end of the day. selection is just opinion and getting the dynamics right for a Lions tour is one where the learning process never ends. On last year’s tour of South Africa, I was probably too conciliatory at times in picking the Test team.

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“My toughest decision as a Lions coach was omitting Brian O’Driscoll from the third Test against Australia in 2013. However, as a coaching team we were all in agreement that is was the right call. I knew the impact it would have. I also knew it was not going to make me popular, but you are paid to make the tough calls. What I didn’t expect was the extent of the vitriol directed at me personally.”

- Originally published at 09.02

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