Lions’ selection: The coach’s joy and pain

Did Warren Gatland pick the right players for the British and Irish Lions summer tour to South Africa?

His team of selectors will have been looking at balance and the style that they want to play. They might not pick the best players but more likely combinations that will complement each other.

But, while I have enormous sympathy for the players who were on the edge of the making the cut but missed out, I also recognise that the announcement and fallout is a tough gig for the coaches too.

When I looked after my son’s grassroots team until he was 16, we always rotated equally apart from about three or four occasions. Those times stick in my mind because the conversations with the parents were as tough as the ones with the players.

On a professional level, a Lions tour place the ultimate feather in a players’ cap. And financially, it is extremely lucrative as well.

So, when the coach shares the news, good or bad, they are also sharing the experience the player is having. I can remember have two very good 9s who were vying for the international starting spot for the Wales Women team. The post-selection call on a Monday afternoon to tell one of them they were on the bench was never easy.

The best advice I received was that you have to remember you are picking a team, not a player. As long as your selection is not a personal decision, then it is a performance decision so you can justify your actions.

The player should disagree! But that should be expected if they are competitive enough. However, you are simply trying to pick the right team for this match.

Good luck all the players and coaches involved today. I’m looking forward to a competitive tour and positive rugby.

Here are some ideas to consider around selection issues:

The 5 rules of selection

A guide to using trial games for selection

Breaking bad news to the rugby team on selection

Have the final word in selection meetings

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