UK coaches challenge Gatland's call-in of 'geographical proximity' players



Associated Press

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has called on his midweek lineup to continue the momentum gained with last weekend's win over the New Zealand Maori in Tuesday's tour match against the Chiefs at Hamilton.

All Blacks coach Hansen believes Gatland is calling for more reinforcements from the UK to cover his growing Lions injury list.
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Gatland believes the 32-10 win over a strong Maori side has given the Lions new impetus ahead of Saturday's first test against New Zealand. While Tuesday's team contains few, if any, of the players who will face the All Blacks at Eden Park, Gatland says the midweekers will play a role in keeping the Lions' confidence high approaching the three-test series.

Saturday's win in Rotorua was by far the Lions' best performance in five tour matches to date, improving their record to three wins and two losses and providing the best showcase yet for the style of play they will adopt throughout the test series.

A strong set piece, contestible kicking, and a good kick-chase backed up by solid work at the breakdown and sound defense set the platform for the win over the Maori. Gatland will hope to see that continue against the Chiefs.

Tuesday's match against the Chiefs will have little impact on the Lions' test preparation, unless they suffer a third midweek defeat which will affect the mood in the touring camp.

The British and Irish Lions coach added a little psychological jab back at Shag over his latest comments.
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Gatland has clearly divided his squad into test and midweek lineups and it was for that reason he called on six players — four from Wales and two from Scotland who are currently playing in the South Pacific — to bring up his current complement to a full 46 players, the equivalent of two match-day 23s.

He has called on Gareth Davies, Cory Hill, Tomas Francis and Kristian Dacey from Wales and Scotland's Finn Russell and Allan Dell, all of whom have been named on the bench against the Chiefs. The larger squad should keep to a minimum the number of players having to play twice in a week.

But Gatland has been heavily criticized by some British coaches and former players. England coach Eddie Jones said Gatland has resorted to selecting players on the basis of "geographical proximity" rather than ability.

The All Blacks coach has suggested that Warren Gatland is calling in the cavalry ahead of the Test series.
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Former Lions coach Ian McGeechan said Gatland's decision to add six players to his touring party "strikes the wrong note."

"I can understand why Warren Gatland has done what he has," McGeechan said. "I have got no issues with protecting the test team by calling up some extra cover for midweek.

"But why not call up the players who just missed out on selection in the first place? The ones who deserve to be there, who would give their right arms to be there, rather than some players purely because they happen to be in the right geographical location."

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