Warren Gatland has called in 6 bodies at the eleventh hour to fill out the squad in this gruelling tour. This decision to call up players has been met with fierce criticism as Gatland has been accused of selecting based on geographic proximity rather than merit.
Always one with an opinion Eddie Jones was straight in there questioning the logic behind Gatland’s decision; ‘My only comment would be I would like to see it picked on merit rather than geographical proximity’. This is hard to argue with, and the sheer number of Welshman (the lowest ranked home nations side in this year’s 6 Nations) has only fueled the controversy. The fiercest critics of this selection have gone as far to say that this selection devalues the Lions jersey itself.
Whilst I agree with Jones’s comment I don’t agree that this decision has put the Lions reputation at risk. The Lions tradition has been going for over a century and the late call up of a few midweek players is going to do nothing to damage the integrity of that. The only thing that will be remembered in the long run is the Tests, and if this decision means that the players are fresher for the test games and thus more likely to win that, then it’s a no brainer.
It’s been clear from the Crusaders and Maori matches that Gatland knows his test squad and this allows for him to focus on that and protect his core players. There are obvious comparisons between this decision and the 2005 Lions tour when Woodward took 46 players to New Zealand. In an interview looking back over the tour Woodward was adamant that he had made the right decision with squad numbers and argued that you needed to have two teams to cope with the schedule. Gatland’s late call ups give the head coach this luxury and if the Lions win the series nobody will be talking about this contraversy in the future.
Who are ya? The 6 new Lions:
Kristian Dacey, 27, hooker, Wales (four Test caps)
Gareth Davies, 26, scrum-half, Wales (25 caps)
Allan Dell, 25, loosehead prop, Scotland (10 caps)
Tomas Francs, 35, tighthead prop, Wales (23 caps)
Cory Hill, 25, second-row, Wales (six caps)
Finn Russell, 24, fly-half, Scotland (29 caps)