Jamie George could not be kept out - Warren Gatland

Jamie George impressed head coach Warren Gatland
Jamie George impressed head coach Warren Gatland

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland revealed that the omission of England skipper Dylan Hartley from the 41-man squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand had more to do with the strong performances from his understudy Jamie George.

Ever since he took over in charge of England team, Hartley led them to a 18-match winning streak that included back-to-back Six Nations triumph. However, he was repeatedly replaced at the start of the second half in the 2017 Six Nations tournament with George using the opportunity to impress the selectors.

"We couldn't leave Jamie out. There's a potential for him to keep improving. He's done a good job coming off the bench and is playing well for Saracens," Gatland said.

"We felt there's continued improvement in him as a player and that Rory and Ken had great Six Nations.

"There was always going to be a tough call and someone was always going to be disappointed."

Gatland also admitted that it was tough to leave Jonathan Joseph out of the squad considering the troubles he had created for Wales in the past adding to his recent performances in the Six Nations tournament.

"We decided on a number of positions yesterday (Tuesday). We had a good discussion about the midfield and I said to the rest of the coaches was that we can't leave Jonathan Joseph out," Gatland said.

"He has his points of difference of footwork and speed and the lines he ran against Scotland in the Six Nations were outstanding.

"He's got some weaknesses but when I look at it from a Welsh perspective, he's the one player who causes us so many problems when we play England because of his footwork and pace."