Tuesday 19 November 2019

Gatland will limit number of English on Lions tour

Lions head coach Warren Gatland
Lions head coach Warren Gatland

WARREN Gatland has revealed that he plans to limit the amount of English players he brings on this summer's lions Tour to Australia to avoid external "pressures".

The New Zealander will opt against bringing a sizeable contingent of English players because of the unpopularity associated with the English squad.


In an interview in the London Evening Standard today, Gatland also revealed that he is keen to avoid the media circus which surrounded England's 2011 World Cup campaign in New Zealand.


"If they do well in the Six Nations, there will be a reasonable contingent of English players. But that brings a certain element of - how do I say it - other pressures that come with selecting a lot of English players,” he said.


"It becomes a much greater media focus from the English papers; potentially a negative focus from the Australian papers. And English players are targeted by other countries.


"[They are] not always the most popular with other countries because of the history. People like having a pop at them.”


Gatland reiterated that the best players available would be on the plane to Australia but he is conscious of the headline grabbing antics which blighted Martin Johnson’s side’s World Cup two years ago.


Gatland said that while he doesn't run a 'dictatorship', it is essential that hs players understand the importance of boundaries:


"These are young men filled up with a lot of testosterone and sometimes they need to go out and just unwind. But it’s essential these players know what their boundaries are,” he added.


"The way I work, it’s not a dictatorship, it’s a consultation with the other coaches and senior players or the captain.


"You might say to players, ‘Go out for a couple of hours and have a beer and maybe you’re back in the hotel by one o’clock’, particularly with night games."


English captain Mike Tindall, who is married Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, was caught on camera hugging a blonde in a bar while Manu Tuilagi made the papers for jumping from a ferry.

The English Rugby Football Union chairman Bill Beaumont responded to Gatland's comments by reminding the New Zealander of England's association with the Lions.


"English players have always represented the Lions with enormous pride," Beaumont said.


"I was lucky enough to be captain in 1980, Martin Johnson skippered the team to the famous 1997 series win, as well as leading the side for a historic second time, when going down to Australia.


"Wearing the Lions shirt, whether captain or player, is something that all English players take very seriously. This will undoubtedly continue for those that get picked this time.


"It is well documented the strong culture and sense of responsibility on and off the pitch that this England team possesses.


"Those fortunate enough to get picked will of course take those attributes Down Under."


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