Warren Gatland has backed the Irish and Scottish contingents in his British and Irish Lions team to exact revenge on Japan this Saturday.
12 members of the Lions’ match day squad for the game against Japan in Murrayfield hail from either Ireland or Scotland, both of whom were beaten by Japan in the group stages of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Several of the players who will face Japan on Saturday were part of the Ireland and Scotland teams who lost to the Brave Blossoms, who will play a test match for the first time since that World Cup.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) June 22, 2021
‘It’s an opportunity for them to get one back on Japan.’
Gatland was speaking after naming his squad to take on Japan in the Lions’ first game in almost four years and reminded those players of their unfinished business with the Japanese.
“They’re going to be a tough opposition, They’ve already had a warm-up game and they made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. So they’re a real challenge for us,” Gatland said.
“For some of the Irish and Scottish players who were beaten by Japan in the World Cup, it’s an opportunity for them to get one back on Japan.
“The most important thing is that we start the tour off on the right foot and we set out our stall by having a good performance that we can keep building on.”
Warren Gatland promises opportunities for his squad.
Gatland does not yet have access to his full 37-man Lions squad, as four Exeter Chiefs players are yet to join up with the rest of the squad, as they are playing in the Gallagher Premiership final on the same day as the Japan match.
A further eight players only joined up with the squad in Jersey in the last couple of days, as several clubs were involved in play off matches in their respective leagues.
10 of those 12 players who missed out on the start of the Lions training camp are English, which has been reflected in Gatland’s team selection for Japan; which only features Irish, Scottish and Welsh players in the starting team.
While those players are at a slight disadvantage compared to the members of the squad who joined the training camp in Jersey over a week ago, Gatland is determined to afford all of his players ample opportunities.
“The whole squad will get an opportunity in the first three games. We’ve gone and said to the players that everyone will start in the first three games,” Gatland revealed.
“For this group of players it’s their chance to put their hands up first and they’ve got the responsibility to go out and perform well and to wear that jersey with pride.”