It’s an argument which simmers amongst rugby supporters of Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland – That Warren Gatland has a bias towards Welsh players when it comes to his Lions squad selection.
In a way, it makes sense, if Gatland comes down to a choice between a Welsh and Irish player for example. He knows he can trust this particular Welsh player based on his performances for Gatland’s Welsh team over the years as opposed to the unknown quantity, in his eyes at least, of this hypothetical Irish player.
12 players were named in the Lions squad in addition to 11 Irish, 15 English and three Scottish (Greig Laidlaw was called up due to Ben Young’s withdrawal).
Now everyone will have their arguments that x,y, and z should have been chosen over a particular player, no one likes to admit it, but nationality bias definitely comes into it. However, most supporters of the Lions will agree that they don’t care who gets picked as long as the team can pull off something remarkable in June and July.
However, the subject of Welsh bias is something that continues to be discussed and the question surrounding this was put to former Lions head coach, Ian McGeechan, and All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick.
“I said it quite openly, who would you replace them with? I like the way Gatland has stood back and said ‘we’re not going to have any quotas from each of the home nations, we’re going to pick the best players which are available on and off the field’ and I think that’s key,” Fitzpatrick told BBC Sport.
McGeechan has the same opinion and he cites his familairity with Northampton players as one of the reasons for the opening Test win during the 1997 tour of South Africa.
“Gats has already shown he picks on form and he picks on attitude and approach and training.
“So there will be no gimmes for any of the Welsh players and I think another thing from the coaches perspective is that if you know the players well then you need that accelerated start on the Lions Tour like in 97′.
“I think I got five Northampton players, but I knew them so well, I knew what would come out of them and what they were capable of.”
So there you have it, two men in the know who refute the Welsh bias claims. However, we have a feeling that won’t stop the conversation surrounding this issue.