Gatland not concerned by injuries
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland admits those players not involved in domestic or European finals could have the edge over the rest of the squad when it comes to selecting his team for the opening Test of the tour to Australia.
A number of players still have some outstanding issues with their clubs due to Ulster, Leinster, Leicester and Northampton’s involvement in domestic and European finals, preventing them from joining up with the rest of the Lions squad.
The Lions will kick off their tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and Gatland has confirmed those not involved in club matches will be selected, which will put them in contention for the opening Test on ?
“The first three-and-a-half weeks will be about preparation for the first Test,” Gatland said.
“The players that prepare for that first game (in Hong Kong) are going to have the biggest advantage on tour.
“They are the players not involved in the finals so they are going to have the best preparation in the next couple of weeks. The players coming back from finals are going to be at a disadvantage because of their lack of preparation time.
“So the team that plays the Barbarians should be in reasonable shape in terms of their preparations in the next couple of weeks.”
Injury to squad members is a big concern for the Lions management team, but Gatland has warned his players not to ease off, encouraging them to go ‘hell for leather’.
“It’s tough for the players in terms of they know a few days after a big game they are on the plane,” he said.
“There’s a bit of trepidation about not picking up injuries. But if you go in with that attitude and try and look after yourself there is more chance of picking up an injury.
“So the advice to those players is to go hell for leather.”
The Lions squad gathered in London on Monday morning but Brian O’Driscoll was unable to make the trip as a result of the back injury he sustained in Leinster’s RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final victory over Glasgow on Saturday.
Gatland, however, is confident the injury is not too serious and is confident the Ireland centre will be ready by the time the Lions squad depart for the tour later this month.
“My information is that he just has to stay off his feet for 48 hours,” Gatland said.
“[The back injury] is something that he’s had and sort of comes once a year at some stage.
“And it’s normally just an epidural to relieve the pain and get him on his feet. He’s hoping to be right for Friday for the Amlin final and fingers crossed everything will be okay for him.
“Normally at this time of the year everyone’s carrying something.
“Most of them could be ruled out for medical reasons for some bang or another. So you know, hopefully we’ll be lucky and at this stage we haven’t picked up anything too major.”