Manawatu Standard

Team leak infuriates Gatland


A furious British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says he will change his team naming methods after his squad for the opening test against the Springboks was leaked.

Gatland informed his players of the team ahead of their midweek training in Cape Town and The Times in London quickly produced it – getting the difficult starting XV correct, though there was an anomaly in the newspaper’s mix of reserves.

The team to play the Springboks on Sunday was meant to be announced to the media later and a disappoint­ed Gatland labelled it ‘‘a betrayal of trust’’, realising he had an internal problem.

The highlight of the team is the

confirmed return of fit-again captain Alun Wyn Jones, but Gatland’s decision to reward form ahead of reputation in other areas meant it was a team no-one had expected, making the leak even more obvious.

‘‘I don’t know how that happened. It wasn’t 100 per cent right, but obviously someone has leaked that out,’’ Gatland said of the team getting into the public domain early.

‘‘Whether that is on purpose or accidental­ly or someone has betrayed someone’s trust, whether that is a player or a staff member – what I will do next week is just name the team to the players and then name the team to the press straight away.’’

Jones’ inclusion in the starting lineup comes after he played 25 minutes in the Lions’ final warmup match against the Stormers last weekend, with Gatland satisfied with his fitness.

‘‘It’s a great boost to the squad and to everyone to have him back,’’ Gatland said. ‘‘It’s great in terms of him making a brilliant recovery to make himself available again. He had to run out the other day and spend some time on the pitch, so it’s fantastic.’’

Robbie Henshaw partners Elliot Daly in midfield, while Dan Biggar and Ali Price are paired together at halfback.

Price gets the No 9 jersey ahead of previous tour captain Conor Murray who is on the bench, while Josh Adams (wing) and Taulupe Faletau (loose forward) controvers­ially missed out altogether.

The back row sees Jack Conan at No 8, with the versatile Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry as flankers.

Gatland described the decisions as his ‘‘most difficult’’ in four tours with the Lions and explained his selection methods.

‘‘It was a robust debate. We were an hour-and-a-half in the selection meeting,’’ he said. ‘‘I asked the other coaches to come along with their 23s, and we were all different, and I can say we all had to compromise in terms of that and debate positions and selections and that is the way it should be.

‘‘A lot of people think it is the team that I select, but it has never been that way whether with Wales or the Lions.

‘‘It’s important that as coaches we all have an input, and it’s the way that I have always done things. Not one of the coaches had the 23 they came along to the meeting with.’’

Meanwhile, tour organisers confirmed that all three tests would be played in Cape Town as South Africa continues to struggle with the Covid pandemic, with the Johannesbu­rg zone particular­ly hard hit.

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