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Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 19:23 UK

Gatland hard-nosed on Jones snub

Lions coaches Rob Howley, Ian McGeechan, Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards
There have been fears that Lions political fall-out could hit the Wales team

Wales and Lions coach Warren Gatland gave a blunt verdict on the omission of his national skipper and back-rower Ryan Jones from the 37-man Lions squad.

"The squad has been picked on form and he is not playing well enough at the moment," said the Wales head coach who takes charge of the Lions forwards.

"I hope he will take his disappointment on the chin and I am sure he will continue to work hard."

Gatland described England forward Tom Croft as the unluckiest Lions omission.

That will be a further blow to Wales' 2008 Grand Slam skipper Jones, who is likely to be on a standby list with Croft to cover potential injuries to the back five of the Lions pack.

"Tom was very, very close," said Gatland. "He is a very good athlete, a good line-out forward. He is very, very unlucky I think.

"There was serious debate about combinations, experience, players fighting in the trenches if they had to.

"We have got a big pack with players we know who are physical but who can also carry the ball."

A total of 13 Wales players made the trip, including back-rower Andy Powell, the Blues man chosen ahead of Jones.

The Ospreys skipper is now likely to captain Wales' two-Test North American tour this summer.

Gatland's presence on the Lions tour was controversial in Wales, following the experience of the last national coach to join the Lions, Graham Henry.

606: DEBATE

Henry led the 2001 trip to Australia, but the post-tour political fall-out contributed to the traumatic end of his reign in Wales as he lost the backing of a number of key players.

Wales players claimed that they had been told they were the 'best in the world' for the national side, and could not understand why they then found themselves out of the Test picture with the Lions.

Wales assistant coaches Rob Howley and Shaun Edwards will also be with the 2009 Lions.

Ryan Jones
Ryan Jones is the big-name omission from the 2009 Lions tour party

"The last three or four weeks, Ryan will admit he has not been playing to his potential," said Howley.

Edwards added: "It has been a hard decision but we always have to be guided by [Lions coach] Ian McGeechan.

"He is the sole selector of the team. Obviously, the form of the Ospreys recently hasn't been great, so that probably didn't go in Ryan's favour.

"But traditionally there are always injuries on a Lions tour and I'm pretty sure that Ryan will be fit and ready if someone does get injured to get over to South Africa on the next plane."

Shane Williams, Jones' team-mate with Wales, the Ospreys and the 2005 Lions, had words of consolation.

"Ryan will be very disappointed, we all thought he would be there," said the winger, who will be in South Africa with the 2009 tourists.

"He's one of those players you want in your side.

"He's a good friend of mine and I'm sure he'll bounce back a stronger player."

The Lions depart on 24 May for a 10-match tour and play Test matches in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.



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see also
Ryan Jones suffers shock omission
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Reaction of Wales' 2009 Lions
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O'Connell handed Lions captaincy
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Boks surprised by O'Connell pick
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Lion Ellis backs excluded Croft
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Telfer worried by low Lions count
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
History of the Lions
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Scrum V's starting Lions XV picks
18 Apr 09 |  Welsh
Mighty Boks: South African rugby
01 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Botha tips S Africa to beat Lions
30 Mar 09 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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