British & Irish Lions
Rowntree: Robshaw 'desperately unlucky'
Tom Hamilton at the Lions squad announcement
April 30, 2013
England captain Chris Robshaw reflects on his side's defeat to South Africa, England v South Africa, Twickenham, London, England, November 24, 2012
Chris Robshaw has been omitted from the Lions' squad © PA Photos

British & Irish Lions coach Graham Rowntree admitted leaving out Chris Robshaw from the 37-man squad was a difficult decision and the England captain was "desperately" unlucky to miss out on selection.

Robshaw's omission was one of the biggest stories to emerge from Tuesday's Lions announcement with the likes of Dan Lydiate, Sean O'Brien, Justin Tipuric and skipper Sam Warburton preferred to the England skipper. Following England's win over the All Blacks in December, Robshaw was installed as the bookies' favourite to lead the tour and the thought of him missing out on selection seemed highly unlikely.

But following a Six Nations where England were undone in the final match of the championship - with Tipuric and Warburton shining in the back-row and helping Wales to their 30-3 triumph - it seems Robshaw has paid the price. Rowntree knows him better than most, having coach him at England, and the ex-Lions prop admits Robshaw is likely to be the first person called upon if injury hits the Lions' back-row.

"[He was] desperately, desperately unlucky," Rowntree said. "I feel for him, he's been exceptional for us. And that's going to be a difficult conversation to have with him later on. But he was close, very close and I'd like to think that if we have an injury then we will go to Chris."

And while Robshaw missed out on selection, his England team-mate Dylan Hartley got the nod despite playing back-up to Tom Youngs throughout the Six Nations. With Rory Best out of the mix, Hartley will vie with Richard Hibbard and Youngs for a spot in the Test team and Rowntree puts his inclusion down to his ability in the loose.

"Dylan was exceptional for us up until the end of the summer series and then he got injured and missed the start of the autumn series with an injury but he played well for us," Rowntree said. "He lost his place to Tom Youngs in the Six Nations as Tom deserved to stay there. But Dylan brings an edge to the game that we need - an aggressive edge.

"He's overstepped the mark a couple of times but he has learnt from that but he brings a real aggression and a style of play that we want. But on the back of that, his stats are good - he's a good set piece technician and similar to Matt Stevens he brings us a lot in the loose."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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