Even as the Six Nations move towards a crescendo, nobody can stop thinking about the Lions tour this Summer.
Many had written it off as an impending whitewash, given the spectacular form of the All Blacks since picking up their third World Cup in 2015. Recent events, primarily Ireland’s triumph over New Zealand in Chicago, England’s stunning winning streak and Scotland’s apparent return to rugby’s top table have given newfound hope to the notion of a competitive series.
Perhaps even, whisper it, a series victory for the Lions. Such a feat has been achieved just once in New Zealand in the history of the Lions. Understandably, rumours surrounding squad selection have been rife.
Injuries and form have been scrutinised ad nauseum in recent weeks as each contender’s performance is picked apart to forensic detail. Missed tackles are magnified while the merits of accurate kicking is accentuated. But maybe the rugby media has been paying undue attention to on-field merits.
Speaking this week on the podcast Flats and Shanks, Gatland spoke about the importance of ensuring the side gels quickly. This will be especially difficult given that both the Guinness Premiership and Guinness Pro12 finals are as late as May 27. Thus, the entire side will be together for the first time the very next day for a leaving dinner before ultimately arriving in New Zealand on the Wednesday. They then play their first match on Saturday, June 3.
So if time is not available for the usual pre-tour bonding sessions, what options are available to Gatland? Interestingly, he claims to be ‘seriously thinking about’ bringing a couple of players based on their personality and ability to bring the group together, rather than their actual likelihood of playing Tests for the Lions.
“Getting the right people on board … there might be one or two players that have been around a bit, who have experience, who are great in a team environment ….. the conversation might be … at this stage I don’t see you as a test player …… but you could be incredibly vital to us as part of bringing the team together.”
Organising events and ‘helping with committees’ were two such tasks Gatland specified would be very important, and speculating as to what players he may have in mind certainly adds another dimension to the Lions squad speculation.
James Haskell is one such player who could bring a certain Joie de Vivre to proceedings, as evidenced by his YouTube channel. although his lack of Lions experience may count against him. Jamie Roberts, by contrast, has ample touring experience and, while not currently first choice for Wales, he’s clearly adept at a brand of rugby very dear to Gatland.
Either way, this latest revelation certainly adds yet another layer of intrigue to the Lions tour, and may restore hope to some players who feared not starting in the 6 Nations was enough to rule them out of contention.
Read More About: 2017 6 Nations, 2017 British & Irish Lions Tour, 2017 British and Irish Lions, All Blacks, english rugby, irish rugby, new zealand rugby, Rugby, scottish rugby, Sport, warren gatland, welsh rugby