British and Irish Lions: Iain Henderson accuses Warren Gatland of ignoring form in South Africa


Henderson missed out on a place in one of Gatland’s squads for the three Tests for a second tour in succession.

The second row was considered unfortunate not to figure in New Zealand in 2017 and captained the Lions against the Cell C Sharks in South Africa this year.

However he was again overlooked as Gatland stuck with an engine room partnership of Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones, with Tadhg Beirne (for the first two encounters) and Adam Beard, for the series decider, preferred as bench cover.

Henderson started the Lions’ toughest warm-up game against a close to fully-loaded Springboks side under the South Africa ‘A’ tag a week and a half before the series proper.

However Jones’ remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder saw Gatland’s chosen leader return to the tour before the three Tests in Cape Town.

Courtney Lawes started all three matches at blindside flanker despite having limited time on the pitch in the warm-up fixtures while the Lions protected a nagging injury.

“I would tend to agree with that statement,” Henderson told BBC Sport NI’s Ulster Rugby Show when asked if Gatland selected his side based on familiarity rather than form.

“Courtney Lawes, for example, hadn’t played a lot of rugby, was injured going in, missed a lot of rugby, comes in and starts all three Tests.

“Don’t get me wrong, Courtney is a class player and he probably deserved to be playing, but that would lead you to believe that he [Gatland] wasn’t picking on who was on form at the stage, because Courtney had already banked his form from before.”


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