Rugby

No England limit for Lions

2013-02-13 16:34
Warren Gatland (AFP)

London - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland insisted on Wednesday he'd happily field an entire XV of England players in the first Test against Australia if they were the best available.

Gatland was trying to defuse a row caused by remarks, reportedly made in Tuesday's London Evening Standard, saying too many England players could lead to the kind of media "circus" that derailed their 2011 World Cup campaign in the coach's native New Zealand.

The 49-year-old Gatland's comments were especially inflammatory as England, who beat the world champion All Blacks in December, are currently the form team in the Six Nations where they are the only side to have won both their opening two matches.

And they appeared to take no account of the lack of negative headlines attached to England since coach Stuart Lancaster replaced Martin Johnson last year following a World Cup where the side were better known for their off-field drinking exploits than the quality of their rugby.

But former Ireland boss Gatland, currently on sabbatical from his post as Wales coach in order to guide the Lions, was adamant Wednesday he'd no bias against England players.

"I am extremely disappointed that anybody should try to misinterpret what I said and try to say that will count against English players, that's absolute bullshit," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"The last thing I would ever do is limit the number of English players. There is absolutely no limit to the number of any players from any nation we will pick if they are worthy of a place on the tour.

"I would happily pick 15 English players in the first Test at Brisbane if I thought they were the best 15 players for the job.

"The only consideration for a Lions coach is to get the best 15 on the park to do the job. That's paramount, I'm not remotely bothered which country they come from.

"When I first started at Wales I remember I once picked 13 Ospreys for one of my early Tests in charge."

Gatland had told the Standard "the best players will be selected", but "it's just being aware of potential issues that may arise".

Rugby Football Union chairman Bill Beaumont, himself a former England and Lions captain, took a dim view of Gatland's remarks as quoted by the Standard on Tuesday and highlighted the changes that had taken place under Lancaster.

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

"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."

The Lions, who haven't won a series since England great Johnson led them on their 1997 tour of South Africa, face Australia in the first of three Tests in Brisbane on June 22.

NEXT ON SPORT24X

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

 

10 facts about swimming you didn't know

This will make you want to jump right into the pool.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Snors with a cause - creating awareness of male health
Inspiring: Rock climbing with just one leg
Watch! Skateboarders racing cyclists
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!
 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Featured

Got something you'd like to get off your chest? Got a burning desire to air an opinion? If so, be sure to sign-up on Sport24's FORUM!

Latest blogs
Vote

The Currie Cup is a thing of the past and attention now turns to the Springboks' end of year tour where they will play Ireland, England, Italy and Wales. How many Test will Heyneke Meyer's men win?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

Forum Have your Say on Sport24's brand new Forum!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.