“The Lions have known the Premiership schedule for a long time now.”
Rob Baxter has criticised Warren Gatland for airing concerns over the availability of Gallagher Premiership players for this summer’s Lions tour.
Gatland raised concerns over the release of players contracted to English clubs when he announced his British and Irish Lions coaching team on Tuesday.
The Lions are due to play their first game against Japan at Murrayfield on the 26th of June, the same day the Premiership final will be held.
While players involved in that game will obviously be unavailable for the Lions’ first match, Gatland also questioned whether Premiership teams not involved in the play-offs would release their players, despite their season-ending on the 12th of June.
“We’re absolutely determined to make it an enjoyable, memorable and ultimately successful experience for everyone involved.”
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) April 13, 2021
‘This situation has not been created by the Premiership.’
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter was speaking to PA Media about Gatland’s comments and labelled his stance on the availability of Premiership players as “disingenuous”.
“The Lions have known the Premiership schedule for a long time now – I think about a year – so they have known exactly what the scenario was, they’ve known there is no way of cutting that season short,” Baxter said.
“Everyone has known when the Premiership season is going to finish, so for the Lions to now turn around and say that this is a scenario is a little bit disingenuous, I think, because they have known our fixture list for a long time.
“Secondly, I have got every confidence that Warren Gatland will pick the team that he feels will do the job for him because that’s the kind of coach he is.
“I don’t think if there was a player playing in the Premiership final that Warren Gatland thinks is an important player in his squad that he will leave him out. I wouldn’t.
“It is an unfortunate situation but at the end of the day it has not been created by the Premiership, so we have to get on with it.”
Rob Baxter: Warren Gatland will take who he deems is important to him
A number of players in Baxter’s squad who will be hoping to tour South Africa this summer are likely to be involved in this year’s Premiership final, meaning they will not be available for at least the first two weeks of training with the Lions.
However, Baxter believes that Premiership play-off games could stand to his players more than training sessions or a warm-up game with the Lions, and said he is confident that Gatland feels the same way.
“If I am Warren Gatland and I am sitting watching guys play outstandingly well in Premiership semi-finals and finals, do I decide I don’t want them to be part of the Lions tour because they have missed a week’s training?” Baxter questioned.
“I don’t for one second, despite whatever is going to be said, think that Warren Gatland will not take a player he deems to be important to him on that tour because they miss a week’s training or they miss a warm-up game.”