Gatland set to call up Lions replacements

June 16, 2017

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is expected to call up as many as six replacement players to join his squad’s ongoing tour of New Zealand, ahead of the Lions’ crucial First Test showdown against the All Blacks.

The Lions’ tour down under has got off to an unconvincing start, having been convincingly beaten 22-16 by the Blues in Auckland and going down to a late 23-22 defeat against the Highlanders in Dunedin just last Tuesday. Gatland and his team will look to put down a marker by beating the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua tomorrow.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen suggested on Thursday that Gatland was about to call for reinforcements to ‘give himself the ability to play with two squads’. The Lions did similar in their Australian tour of 2013, bringing Alex Corbisiero into the squad. Corbisiero went on to score the Lions’ first try in the series-deciding third Test against the Wallabies.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a panic measure on Gatland’s part – in fact, the coach had hinted at the possibility of adding back-up players to the squad when he was officially confirmed as Lions coach last September. Gatland surmised that his first-choice 23 might be in need of further protection on what is certainly a long and arduous tour.

However, Gatland is likely to wait until this weekend’s Test matches – involving several of the home nations – have been played before deciding on which replacements to add to the Lions squad, in case there are any further injuries. Wales are in New Zealand this weekend, while Scotland are currently touring Australia and Fiji. England’s tour of Argentina ends on Saturday while Ireland are in Japan.

Among the players tipped for a possible call-up are England forwards Dylan Hartley and Joe Launchbury, as well as Welshmen Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts and Gareth Davies. However, Lions assistant coach Steve Borthwick has indicated that Gatland is keen to maintain the personal cohesion of his squad and will avoid making any drastic changes.

Scotland’s Stuart Hogg was forced to return home from the Lions tour after sustaining a facial injury during the squad’s 12-3 win over the Crusaders on June 10th. Owen Farrell will also miss the game against the Maori All Blacks with a thigh injury while Courtney Lawes is another fitness doubt.

The 6 Nations 2016 collection is now available at Lovell Rugby.

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