Saturday 23 September 2017

Lions squads need to be bigger – Gatland

Lions coach Warren Gatland
Lions coach Warren Gatland

Andrew Baldock

Warren Gatland believes that future Lions squads may need to be larger because of rugby's increased physical nature and injury attrition rate.

Gatland selected a 37-man party for the current Australia tour, but props Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins have already gone home injured, wing Tommy Bowe is recovering from a broken hand and full-back Rob Kearney is involved for the first time this weekend after being sidelined by hamstring trouble.

Three players – Alex Corbisiero, Ryan Grant and Simon Zebo – have flown in to join the squad, while England centre Billy Twelvetrees is on his way from Argentina to provide midfield cover.

Tomorrow's appointment with New South Wales Waratahs sees the tour reach only its halfway point, and the first of three Tests against Australia is still eight days away.

"I think that as you move from one tour to the next, you realise how tough it is, especially for the players," Gatland (pictured) said yesterday. "The game's physicality has increased from 2009 (Lions tour) in South Africa. It has stepped up a level, and players handling two games in a week is tough. It is something we need to be mindful of."

Gatland revealed that injuries could play a part when it comes to selection for next week's first Test against Australia in Brisbane, and the Lions still have two games left before then.

Wing George North and centres Brian O'Driscoll and Manu Tuilagi are among those not involved against the Waratahs.

"I think there are one or two that are a little bit sore that may next week be out of contention," Gatland added, without naming specific players. "By the time Saturday (the first Test) comes round, they might all be fit, but one or two are possibly going to be ruled out because they are not fit enough earlier in the week.

"Manu has a sore shoulder, but it is improving all the time and he is training. George North's hamstring is a bit tight from the other night.

"We've got a few bodies among the backs who have been knocked around, which is why Billy Twelvetrees has been brought in as cover.

"Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell have both been passed fit by the medical staff. We could easily have gone again with Stuart Hogg at 10 (this weekend), but Jonny is playing."

* Edinburgh have confirmed the signing of Scotland and Bath full-back Jack Cuthbert (25) on a two-year deal.

Irish Independent

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