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tough call I couldn’t rely on Johnny Sexton to get through tour – Lions coach Warren Gatland

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Ireland's Jonathan Sexton misses out on the Lions Tour as Warren Gatland says his record in recent seasons of not finishing matches is a concern

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton misses out on the Lions Tour as Warren Gatland says his record in recent seasons of not finishing matches is a concern

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton misses out on the Lions Tour as Warren Gatland says his record in recent seasons of not finishing matches is a concern

Concerns over Johnny Sexton’s durability and ability to get through the Lions’ relentless schedule of games led to his exclusion from the squad, according to head coach Warren Gatland.

The 2018 World Player of the Year, who started five of the last six Lions Tests and came off the bench in the other, was the biggest name left out of the panel of 37 named yesterday.

However, he was far from alone in being a shock omission. His Leinster team-mates – Cian Healy, Garry Ringrose and James Ryan – were all left disappointed, as were England’s Kyle Sinckler, Billy Vunipola, Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi and Wales’ Josh Navidi and Jonathan Davies.

Like Scotland, Ireland will be represented by eight players in Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki, while Alun Wyn Jones will captain the side on his fourth tour. He's one of 10 Welsh players, while England have 11 representatives.

Sexton starred in the recent Six Nations, but has been stood down over a succession of recent head injuries. Gatland said that wasn't the key factor, but said the out-half’s record of sitting out, or not finishing, games was the reason he went with Owen Farrell, Finn Russell and Dan Biggar.

“He was outstanding against Scotland and great against England. There’s no doubt he’s a quality player, and at the end of the day it wasn’t about concussion for me. We made a tough call about durability,” he said. “The thing with the Six Nations is that you do have a couple of games and then you get a week off, because it is really, really tough.

“To give you a good example. I know he’s rested on a number of occasions for Leinster or for Ireland, but the last time that Johnny played three consecutive weekends in a row was 2018. He has had some knocks, we know that, but he’s had a number of different injuries.

So, when it came down to it, we’ve got such a choice of three, four, five quality No 10s to pick from, and I just wanted to send a message to the guys we have selected that we have complete confidence and faith in you to do a job.

“That mitigated against the risk that if we did pick Johnny and then he doesn’t play games or doesn’t get through the tour and then having to call someone up. It’s just such an important position.”

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