Gat­land wants ear­lier fi­nals to give Lions more time to pre­pare

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - PAUL REES

WARREN Gat­land has called for the Lions to have more time to pre­pare for tours, even if it means bring­ing for­ward do­mes­tic fi­nals by one week.

The cur­rent tour agree­ment with the three ma­jor south­ern hemi­sphere unions ends af­ter the sum­mer tour to New Zealand and the four home unions are con­sid­er­ing short­en­ing fu­ture trips from 10 to eight matches. Gat­land will have three days to get his side ready for the first game in New Zealand in June. They leave London on the Mon­day fol­low­ing the Pre­mier­ship and Guin­ness PRO12 fi­nals, ar­rive in Auck­land on the Wed­nes­day and will play that Satur­day, against the Pro­vin­cial Bar­bar­ians.

“I said in my re­port that it comes down to three words: prepa­ra­tion, prepa­ra­tion, prepa­ra­tion,” the head coach said. “There are a num­ber of stake­hold­ers in­volved and they have to un­der­stand the fu­ture of the Lions and that things should be done prop­erly.

“Last time we had a week in Hong Kong and ar­rived in Aus­tralia with five days to spare, which feels a life­time com­pared to ar­riv­ing on the Wed­nes­day with the first game that Satur­day. Ev­ery­one wants more time but what would be rea­son­able would be to have a week to­gether with the squad in the UK or Ire­land be­fore you travel and ar­rive seven days be­fore your first game.

“And the ideal sce­nario would be not play­ing a match in the week of the first Test. I hope the Lions are able to ne­go­ti­ate with the stake­hold­ers, the unions and the clubs. It might mean bring­ing Europe and the fi­nals for­ward a week so we can have more warm-up time. It is a chal­lenge to bring play­ers from four coun­tries to­gether and gel them quickly, which is why you need both prepa­ra­tion time and five warm-up matches.”

Gat­land be­lieves the thou­sands of Lions sup­port­ers trav­el­ling will make a dif­fer­ence. “Their sup­port­ers are used to mak­ing up 90pc of the crowd in New Zealand, but the split could be near 50-50 in this se­ries,” he said.

As a New Zealan­der, Gat­land is ex­pect­ing some hos­tile me­dia at­ten­tion but does not ex­pect the two man­age­ment camps to in­dulge in an in­sult war. “There will no doubt be some com­ments at some stage, but we want our rugby to do the talking, not stoop to per­sonal jibes,” he said. “The game is big­ger than that and it should be about two qual­ity teams on the field.”

Andy Far­rell is a rar­ity among Euro­pean coaches, hav­ing been part of two vic­to­ries over the All Blacks. The dual in­ter­na­tional is in charge of the Lions’ de­fence this sum­mer af­ter plot­ting the down­fall of New Zealand with Eng­land in 2012 and Ire­land four years later.

The Lions have stressed the sig­nif­i­cance of Ire­land’s vic­tory over the All Blacks last Novem­ber, New Zealand’s first and only de­feat since win­ning the 2015 World Cup, say­ing the con­fi­dence and knowl­edge gained from it by the Ir­ish con­tin­gent in the squad will be passed on to the rest.

Warren Gat­land is seek­ing a week to pre­pare

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