British and Irish Lions
Kearns questions strong Welsh contingent
April 30, 2013

Former Australia captain Phil Kearns has questioned the decision to include 15 Welshmen in the 37-man British & Irish Lions squad for the tour of Australia.

The back-to-back Six Nations champions dominate a touring party that also includes 10 players from England, nine from Ireland and three from Scotland.

Kearns was not surprised by the large Welsh contingent given their recent Six Nations dominance but was quick to point out Wales have lost their previous eight Tests against the Wallabies, including a 3-0 whitewash in Australia last June.

"That was expected that is was going to be mostly Welshmen, particularly after that last [Six Nations] game where they absolutely belted England," Kearns told Fox Sports. "Having said that, when they came out to Australia last year in that three-Test series they were Six Nations champions then as well and we knocked them off 3-0, so how wise a move that is I'm not too sure."

The former Australia hooker, who played 11 international seasons but missed out on facing the Lions, also raised an eyebrow over the selection of Welshman Sam Warburton as captain.

Warburton, who lost both the Wales captaincy and his starting spot after an injury set-back during this year's Six Nations campaign, edged out Irish legends Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell for the top job.

Incumbent Ireland skipper Rory Best and England captain Chris Robshaw both missed selection.

"Sam played very, very well at the World Cup and he captained the side very well at the World Cup and there's no doubt that he's a good leader and he does know what he's doing out there," Kearns, who is predicting a 2-1 series victory to the Wallabies, said. "However, it's interesting, his [Six Nations] form wasn't that good; he struggled to get into that Welsh side.

"He's got alongside him a bunch of other good leaders: just think about O'Connell and O'Driscoll that are in the side that are really, really experienced players that can help with that captaincy issue. But Warburton's really got to focus on getting his game on and he's got a little bit of time to do that. Certainly he'll be picked as skipper for the first Test at the very, very least - no matter how good or bad his form is - and then they'll see how he goes from there."

The omission of England veteran Jonny Wilkinson was the other major talking point to come out of Tuesday's squad announcement in London.

Coach Warren Gatland confirmed he spoke to Wilkinson about his non-selection and left the door open for the veteran fly-half to join the tour as an injury replacement if required.

The Lions will square off against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and play mid-week matches against the five Australian Super Rugby provinces and a Country outfit on top of the three-Test series against the Wallabies.

Sam Warburton: 'My priority is the team performance'
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