ENGLAND great Jason Leonard has labelled captain Chris Robshaw’s British and Irish Lions snub “very unlucky”, but feels the Harlequins flanker could still have a part to play in the summer tour to Australia.
Robshaw, World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson and Ireland hooker Rory Best were among the most notable omissions when Lions head coach Warren Gatland yesterday named his 38-man squad.
The Premiership-winning skipper was favourite to captain the Lions earlier this year but has instead been overlooked completely, with Gatland preferring his erstwhile Wales leader Sam Warburton for the role.
Nonetheless Leonard, who won five Lions caps alongside his record 114 for England, fancies Robshaw to be involved in Australia if a busy campaign claims casualties in the back row.
“Chris Robshaw is very unlucky not to go. He’s had a great 12 months as England captain. He probably got three man of the match awards during the Six Nations. It would’ve been a very close call,” he told City A.M.
“But that said, games come thick and fast because the tour is very condensed now. I’m sure injuries will happen and I’m pretty sure Chris Robshaw’s number will be in Warren Gatland’s phone.”
Gatland, who revealed veteran Wilkinson asked not to be included over concerns about a gruelling summer, sprung a surprise by selecting Saracens props Matt Stevens, who quit England duty last year, and youngster Mako Vunipola.
“He’s only in single figures for England appearances, but when he’s played he has been dynamic and a good ball carrier,” Leonard added of Vunipola, 22.
“He’ll soak up the experience of all the other Lions players like a sponge. It will be probably be the first of many tours for him.”
Jason Leonard was speaking on behalf of RugbyForce, an RBS initiative that supports grassroots rugby clubs in all home unions across the UK. Help your local rugby club by getting involved over the RugbyForce weekend on 15 and 16 July in England. To find out more visit: www.rbs6nations.com/rugbyforce
L Halfpenny (Wales), S Hogg (Scotland), R Kearney (Ireland), T Bowe (Ireland), A Cuthbert (Wales), S Maitland (Scotland), G North (Wales), J Davies (Wales), B O'Driscoll (Ireland), J Roberts (Wales), M Tuilagi (England), O Farrell (England), J Sexton (Ireland), C Murray (Ireland), M Phillips (Wales), B Youngs (England)
D Cole (England), C Healy (Ireland), G Jenkins (Wales), A Jones (Wales), M Stevens (England), M Vunipola (England), D Hartley (England), R Hibbard (Wales), T Youngs (England), I Evans (Wales), R Gray (Scotland), AW Jones (Wales), P O'Connell (Ireland), G Parling (England), T Croft (England), T Faletau (Wales), J Heaslip (Ireland), D Lydiate (Wales), S O'Brien (Ireland), J Tipuric (Wales), S Warburton (Wales)