New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has responded to Dylan Hartley's omission from the British and Irish Lions touring party by suggesting the England captain would have been "an asset" to Warren Gatland's side.
Hooker Hartley was one of the more notable omissions from the Lions squad announced on Wednesday and will instead lead England on their tour of Argentina in June.
Hansen hinted that he would have picked Hartley had he been in Gatland's position, but also acknowledged the strength in depth at his fellow New Zealander's disposal.
"The guy who has the last say is usually the guy that is coaching them," Hansen is quoted as saying by Stuff. "I think [Hartley] would have been an asset but I'm not picking the team.
"I think this is the best British and Irish Lions that we've seen come here for a long, long time.
"There is depth all the way through, that's why people like Hartley and some of the Scottish boys have missed out because there's so much depth.
"You've only got to look at the five-eighths. A guy like Finn Russell's been playing extremely well and can't even make the team because they've got [Jonathan] Sexton, [Owen] Farrell and [Dan] Biggar there. You've also got young [George] Ford missing out."
The world champion All Blacks are strong favourites to beat the Lions, yet Hansen claims Gatland's men will be under significant pressure to perform.
"It's going to be a very good side and they'll come with a lot of expectation, which I think is going to be interesting to see how they cope with that," he added.
"[There is] a lot more expectation than they've been used to because people expect them to win."
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