Late last week the British and Irish Lions media team circulated an email confirming that Warren Gatland would name his squad on April 19.
The unveiling of the touring squad will be the centrepiece of a well coordinated day designed to facilitate the various media organisations from across the rugby world. However, while fans and commentators look forward to April 19 with a great deal of anticipation, the earlier than expected squad announcement leaves fringe players little remaining time to force their inclusion.
In 2013, Gatland unveiled his touring party on April 30, leaving a full six weeks between the conclusion of the Six Nations Championship and the squad unveiling. Those six weeks allowed players return to their clubs and find the form necessary to force the Lions coaching team to take note.
It also enabled players competing in the then Heineken Cup to put forward their case right up to the semi-final stage which were held on April 27 and 28. Indeed, those six weeks also encompassed four rounds of Pro12 and Premiership fixtures, providing fringe players with ample opportunity to make the Lions management consider further their selection.
This season however, Gatland will only be allowing four weeks between the end of the Six Nations and the unveiling of the Lions squad. During that time, players will only be able to take part in three rounds of domestic action and for the lucky few, the quarter-final stage of the Champions and Challenge Cups.
While the Six Nations remains the best way for players to put themselves into contention for a place on the plane, those on the fringes have very little time in which to force Gatland’s hand.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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