Courtney Lawes was the extra player that Lions head coach Warren Gatland decided to add to the tour of South Africa.
The British and Irish Lions were originally due to name a 36-man squad for this summer’s tour of South Africa, but just minutes before the official squad announcement Gatland revealed that he had decided to bring 37 players.
According to The Telegraph, England and Northampton Saints forward Lawes was the 37th man that Gatland decided to include on late notice, which reportedly cost the touring side an extra £100,000.
What it means ❤️
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) May 7, 2021
“When I had to go back to the CEO and the board about getting an extra player, that costs the Lions well over £100,000 by the time we’ve paid the club and the player and all the costs associated with that,” Gatland told the BBC.
“Particularly at the moment when rugby’s struggling financially and the Lions are desperately trying to break even, or there’s potentially a loss situation, it’s not the easiest conversation to have.”
‘I thought my chances were quite slim.’
Lawes was one of several surprising selections in the Lions squad, as the Englishman has played only four matches of rugby this season as a result of two separate injuries.
The 2017 Lions tourist is yet to recover from the second of those injuries, which he suffered in an England training session during the Six Nations, but is expected to play again in the next couple of weeks.
The versatile forward admitted that he wasn’t expecting to get called up for this summer’s tour, and revealed that hadn’t actually received a ‘save-the-date’ email from the Lions before the official squad announcement.
“I was pretty surprised, I just didn’t really have any clue. Some players got emails and things like that, but I didn’t get an email,” Lawes explained.
“I didn’t last time either, so I was pretty much in the dark and waiting to see if I would get a shot basically.
“Obviously not being fit at the minute I thought my chances were quite slim, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”