Iain Henderson says he was surprised to hear that Johnny Sexton and James Ryan had been left out of the Lions squad for the upcoming tour to South Africa.

The Ulster and Ireland second row will go on his second trip with the Lions having travelled to New Zealand four years ago.

However, the omission of Ireland captain Sexton, and Ryan, one of the team's most consistent performers over the last three years, caught out many who had predicted the make-up of the panel.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland hinted that the opposition they face in the world champion Springboks was to the forefront of his mind.

In Sexton’s case, the Kiwi said that the selectors didn’t have "the confidence that he can get through what's going to be a tough, physical tour".

"Traditionally, South African rugby players, as we see so many of them come across to our hemisphere to play, are more sizeable if you like," the 29-year-old, who has 63 Ireland caps, told RTÉ Sport.

"They are an abrasive team so obviously that would have played on the minds of the coaching staff, even if it’s maybe more of a stereotype, I’m not sure.

"You mentioned the omissions there and they did come as a surprise to me, as everyone else is surprised.

"But when these squads are announced, people get in the way of reading a few articles and get convinced that this is what the team is going to be.

"That happened to me, the squad that was announced was a fair bit different to the one that I thought was going to be announced but again it’s down to the coaching staff - what their vision for the team, what they want the team to do.

"They’ve obviously picked the personnel that they think is best to carry out the task of which their vision provides."

Ireland have eight representatives in the touring squad with Jack Conan’s inclusion coming as somewhat of a surprise.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, the 28-year-old Leinster back row said: "It’s so surreal. If someone told me six months ago that I was going to be even in contention to make the Lions I would have laughed.

"It was so far from where I was...with injuries and not playing to the best of my ability.

"I’m over the moon.

"I got the email a few months ago, 'if selected, will you go?’ and I thought that’s great, I didn’t think I’d get that far.

"I was on the phone to a mate this morning and I said, ‘ah, look, I’m not going and I’m at peace that I’m not going’.

"So I wasn’t that nervous. It’s an incredible honour."

Follow Munster v Ulster (8.15pm) and Connacht v Leinster (Saturday, 7.35pm) via our live blogs on RTE.ie and the RTÉ News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra and RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.

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