Thursday 18 January 2018

Wasps 'gobsmacked' at Joe Launchbury's shock omission from Warren Gatland's Lions squad

England's Joe Launchbury during training. Photo: REUTERS
England's Joe Launchbury during training. Photo: REUTERS

Wasps have said they are "gobsmacked" after lock Joe Launchbury was a surprise omission from the British and Lions squad for this summer's tour of New Zealand.

Head coach Warren Gatland selected a 41-man squad for the 10 fixtures which include a three-Test series against New Zealand.

But despite England having the largest contingent of players in the squad, Launchbury missed out.

Following the midday squad announcement, Wasps tweeted: "All gobsmacked here that Joe Launchbury wont be with @lionsofficial. 2 motm's in a 6 Nations winning campaign & player of the comp nominee."

Wasps did, however, congratulate Elliot Daly for making the squad, adding: "Hugely proud of @elliotdaly as he's selected to tour NZ with @lionsofficial! Congrats Elliot, massively deserved!"

England's 2003 World Cup-winning boss Sir Clive Woodward stated his approval over the choice of Sam Warburton as captain, writing on Twitter: "Congrats all those selected @lionsofficial , especially @samwarburton_ , definitely correct choice and what an opportunity for all of them."

Former England flanker Lewis Moody believes some players left disappointed will still have a chance to be involved, tweeting: "Those who missed out will still inevitably have a part to play as injuries occur. Ala Corry, corbisero and Ryan jones over the years."

One of the surprise picks was Harlequins tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler who has eight England caps to his name so far, making a name for himself as one of Eddie Jones' 'finishers'. The 24-year-old expressed his shock with a simple tweet that said, "Wow".

Former Wales and British and Lions prop Adam Jones added: "Very proud of my boys @JoeMarler and @KyleSinckler getting the @lionsofficial call up! They will both do incredibly well out there."

Ross Moriarty revealed how he checked Twitter for updates and admitted his shock at receiving a Lions call-up.

The Gloucester and Wales flanker said: "It sounds fantastic. Obviously it's a shock to me, I only found out an hour ago, but I'm truly over the moon. It's not really sunk in yet.

"I was listening on my phone, and checking Twitter whilst out for lunch down in Bill's, at the (Gloucester) Quays, and as the names were going on, it was getting longer and longer, and I really didn't expect to get named.

"When it came, I was just so shocked. I didn't know what to do with myself."

Gloucester's Paddy McAllister congratulated team-mate Moriarty as well Ulster trio Jared Payne, Rory Best and Iain Henderson on their selections: "Unreal news for @RossMoriarty6 having a blinder of a season! Also to the Ulster men @thepain15 @HendersonIain and @RoryBest2 LionsNZ2017"

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said the club are proud to have six of their players selected for the summer tour.

Previous Lions tourists Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola will be joined by Jamie George, George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola.

McCall said: "We're honoured to have six of our players included in the squad. Every player included is under the age of 27 which is extremely exciting for Saracens and for England, and I'm extremely confident they'll thrive in the red jersey in New Zealand.

"Four of the players have come through the age-group system at the club and both Vunipolas arrived at Saracens under the age of 21, so their selection is the culmination of a lot of hard work from the players themselves, our coaching staff and support team.

"All six of the players still have a huge role to play in some massive games for Saracens in the upcoming weeks, I know that they'll be raring to go in club colours before they jet off Down Under.

"I'm sure I share every Saracens fan's sentiment by wishing them the best of luck in the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour."

Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young was "mystified" and found it difficult to understand Launchbury's omission from Gatland's squad.

"The one (decision) that we have got to really feel sorry about and a little bit mystified to be honest, is how Joe Launchbury is not on that plane," Young said.

"Two man of the matches in the Six Nations, up for Player of the Six Nations as well as being nominated England Player of the Season by his team-mates, and still he doesn't get on the plane. As well as that, he's captain of the team sitting at the top of the Aviva Premiership at this moment in time, so it's very hard to understand how Launchers isn't on that plane and very hard to understand what more he could have done.

"I'm not going to knock any of the other players, they are all quality players and there are always quality players who miss out, but it has put a bit of sombre mood around the camp today, because everyone feels for Joe."

Meanwhile, Young believes Daly's inclusion was "an obvious choice".

Young added: "Elliot thoroughly deserves his Lions selection. He has taken his opportunities brilliantly with England, played really well and shown his versatility; playing on the wing for England while playing 13 week in week out for us and he's also played 15 in the past.

"I know I am biased, but he's an obvious choice in my eyes, he's worked really hard for it so I am really pleased for Elliot and his family. It's a huge honour and very well deserved."

Saracens hooker George admitted that the possibility of playing for the Lions was "so far out of the realms of my ambitions."

"It was pretty surreal to be honest," George told the Saracens' website. "It's not something I ever even dreamed of as a kid because it was so far out of the realms of my ambitions.

"It's just an incredible honour and I'm so happy to be doing it with the other lads. It's great to be on the tour, it'll be a nervous time the first week or so but it'll make all the difference having the other guys around me."

Exeter Chiefs and England wing Jack Nowell admitted that hearing his name being read out for the Lions squad felt "surreal".

Nowell will also make history by becoming the first player to be included in the squad whilst playing for the Chiefs.

"It's pretty surreal at the minute, I just literally found out," Nowell said. "I was watching the announcement on the TV with the boys and my named got called out!

"The fact I was with the boys at the time made it even more special. You kind of get a feeling how much it means to them as well and obviously it's down to them that I got into an England shirt in the first place."

Northampton and Wales wing George North voiced his delight on Twitter: "Massive thanks for all the messages. Honoured to be selected for @lionsofficial tour!"

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