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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland keeps open mind about French-based players

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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland keeps open mind about French-based players Empty British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland keeps open mind about French-based players

Post by BigTrevsbigmac Thu Nov 01, 2012 7:45 am

Take note RFU & SL,

Gatland initially indicated that his preference was only to select those players who were able “to get on the plane” when the squad is due to depart on May 27, two days after the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro 12 finals.
However, the impressive form of players like Jonny Wilkinson, Andrew Sheridan, Delon and Steffon Armitage for Toulon appears to have prompted Gatland to relax that stance.
The French club could potentially find themselves in the Top 14 final on June 1 — the day the Lions play their first match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong — but Gatland says he will an open mind with regards to selection.
“There are a number of players in Toulon who are playing well and putting their hands up,” said Gatland at the launch of the Lions Collection by Thomas Pink in London.
“I have said all along that my preference is to have everyone on the plane going together.

“When you have got the Premiership and Pro 12 final basically the day before we fly out, there is a potential that the first time the squad will be together is on the squad for our farewell dinner.
“That makes it difficult for preparation point of view and if you are going to potentially add some French players the week after that, it is not ideal. But that said, you have to be a little bit flexible, depending on injuries and form.
“I am not going to back myself into a corner and say ‘this is my 100 per cent policy’.”
In contrast to England, who continue to overlook players who are based in France unless there are exceptional circumstances, Gatland is determined to cast his net as wide as possible, including those are not currently playing Test rugby.
He has already stated his intention to monitor Wilkinson’s form this season but interestingly also named-checked Sheridan and the Armitage brothers.
“I think Delon is playing well and Andrew Sheridan is scrummaging well,” Gatland added. “There are a few players there I have been impressed with. Steff’s form has been good. France is a different culture and domestic form is important as well.”
As the for captaincy, Gatland intends to leave his selection until after the Six Nations and says his leader must be guaranteed his place in the side.
“I’ll back myself to make a call on someone who is not just a good captain but is playing well enough for their spot,” Gatland added.

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Post by Casartelli Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:32 am

Barring injury, Sheridan's seat on the plane is guaranteed.

Gatland's gameplan will start with obliterating the Aussies up front and Sheridan terrifies them. The 'Botham Factor', if you will.

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Post by Rugby Fan Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:55 am

Delon Armitage was in the frame for the last tour. Able to cover wing, centre and full back, with a handy boot for longe range goalkicking, he wasn't needed because Earls and Halfpenny offered a similar mix of skills. England may have finished second in the Six Nations that year but had lost to both Wales and Ireland.

It will count against overseas English players that they won't be on show in the internationals. And yet it could cut both ways: they also won't be associated with any subpar Test performances either. If Toulon have a decent Heineken cup run, then the main players Gatland has referred to will have a showcase that currently looks beyond the reach of, say, Welsh players at the regions. The Cup also runs until May 18th so games will be fresh in the mind.

Clearly, the timing and release issues remain a problem but Gatland doesn't have to worry about Lancaster's longer-term access or selection fairness agendas.

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