‘That stand-by list is going to play a vital role’ – McBryde’s Lions message to Leinster players

ROBIN McBRYDE HAS told Johnny Sexton and James Ryan not to lose hope of playing for the British and Irish Lions this summer, despite their omission from Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad to tour South Africa.

The Ireland duo were two of the more notable exclusions in a squad full of surprises, capping a disappointing couple of months for both players.

Ryan missed Ireland’s Six Nations games against France and England due to head injuries, and then appeared to fall out of Gatland’s thinking following Leinster’s Champions Cup semi-final loss to La Rochelle. Sexton hasn’t featured since being removed during the Champions Cup win over Exeter on 10 April – although the out-half could make his return against Glasgow this weekend having resumed contact training.

McBryde, who is part of Gatland’s Lions coaching team, accepts it’s been a difficult period for both players, and that he’s made himself available for a conversation with any member of the Leinster squad who were left disappointed. 

“I’m definitely in the blue (Leinster mode), but you can’t ignore what happened with regards to what happened with the selection for the Lions,” McBryde said.

“I gave them all an opportunity to have a chat if they wanted one. It is what it is. Warren Gatland would tell you himself, sometimes it’s down to one man’s opinion, so don’t get hung up on it.

“It’s important that they stay motivated, anybody who is on that standby list has got to be motivated and keep going because anything can happen. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve just had to put things in boxes in my head and park a few to the back. I’m fully in the blue (Leinster), no doubt about that.”

McBryde was asked how Ryan has dealt with the setback, given he was previously viewed as a shoo-in for the tour.

James Ryan didn’t make the cut in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s been good, it’s obviously tough but he’s responded well,” McBryde said.

“We’ve had a two-week break where there were certain things we want to try and look at ahead of next season, and we’re using these games to try and do that and it’s important that the players are stimulated.

“James has been one of them. If somebody has suffered a disappointment, that they’ve got a goal to aspire to and be able to see they are working towards something.

“From a personal point of view, there are certain goals you put into place for himself and the team as well. There’s enough to keep the boys engaged in the process, in the here and now, and then whatever happens in the future happens in the future. Their attitude across the board has been excellent.” 

The former Wales coach also highlighted the need for both players to stay motivated in case Gatland finds himself needing to pick up the phone. 

“You look at the history of the successful teams in both of those competitions – Six Nations internationally and then domestically in Europe – and both of those players (Ryan and and Sexton) are involved with one of the best teams in Europe. 

“So it’s going to put them in a good place. So definitely, they’ve got to keep the bit between their teeth and keep going, striving to improve, and making sure that when that opportunity comes, that they are ready for it.”

The decision to leave Sexton out proved one of Gatland’s more controversial calls. The Ireland captain was in superb form during the Six Nations but Gatland made clear his concerns regarding the player’s durability ahead of what is expected to be an attritional, physically demanding tour.

Sexton, one of the most experienced players in the Leinster squad, didn’t feel to need to vent any frustrations with McBryde.

“It wasn’t so much of a chat with Johnny really. I’m sure he respects that it wasn’t down to my selection views. 

“Listen, he’s more experienced than anybody. I’m not sure if it was quite a wink and a smile, it was just acknowledgement more than anything. He’s got plenty about himself, Johnny, with regards being able to deal with that and shake it off, and he’s been able to channel all that.” 

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