When Warren Gatland announced a 41 man squad for the British and Irish Lions, there appeared to be enough players called up to cope with the demands of a Tour of New Zealand.
As things would play out, Gatland decided that his squad wasn’t big enough and decided to call up a number of players. With players such as Garry Ringrose, John Barclay, Joe Launchberry, Keith Earls at home, Gatland had numerous Test quality players to choose from.
However, Gatland decided to call up four Welsh men and two Scottish simple based on the fact that they were with their respective countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Welsh quartet Kristian Dacey, Cory Hill, Gareth Davies and Tom Francis as well as Scottish pair Allan Dell and Finn Russell were called up as cover by Gatland nearly a fortnight ago. Whilst Davies and Russell have shown their class at international level, the others are nowhere near the standard of their peers on the tour.
The farcical situation reached new heights on Tuesday morning as none of the “Geographical Six” made an appearance despite being named on the bench. Speaking to Newstalk, Brian O Driscoll has spoken out about the scenario.
“It absolutely is [a mess]. Warren Gatland has made a mistake there personally because he’s not staying strong with his convictions.
He talks about protecting the 23, there’s a chance that he hasn’t protected the 23. Someone like Iain Henderson could easily feature this week. Yet he hasn’t been protected because he had to go and play the full 80 minutes, granted he did spend 10 minutes in the sin bin.
He’s gone and played a full game on the Tuesday. Say he’s on the bench [for the second Test] and there’s an injury in the first minute or two, he plays 78 minutes. That’s 70 minutes on a Tuesday and then 78 minutes on a Saturday and he’s talking about protecting Test players.
I don’t see how that’s good business at all.
O’Driscoll has spoken about the impact Gatland’s decision has had on the camp as players who seemingly were only called up due to their position on the globe were selected to represent the Lions, arguably the pinnacle of a British or Irish Rugby players career.
“From what I’ve heard, those players that have been involved feel no part of it whatsoever. He’s done a disservice to them aswell because they feel that they’re ununsed cannon fodder. I think they’re just waiting to head home. I think they head home tomorrow [Thursday]. I don’t think that worked.
You can’t have a front row on for 80 minutes. When was the last time you had a front row on for 80 minutes? That’s doing players a disservice, irrespective of whether they’re Test players or not.”
“Guys like him (Hill), how does he feel? Is he able to go away and say that he’s been a Lion? I’m sure he’s probably been embarrassed by it. It’s a terrible situation to find yourself in as a player.
As a coach, the backpedalling has not served him well. This will become a big issue and a stick to beat Gats with if they lose the series 3-0.”