Locks, loosies provide headache for Gatland

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    20 Mar 2017     Getty Images

Gatland was on hand to see the Six Nations win by Ireland over England in Dublin and commented that he faced a tough call for the back five of the scrum.


"It is about picking the best players who will perform under pressure," he told ITV.

"I think particularly second row and back row – there will be some quality players that miss out on selection. That is the hardest thing for us so it is a big challenge for the loose forwards and second rows.

"There is a lot of quality and depth, it is a difficult position to be in but a nice problem to have," he said.

Gatland, who bolstered his coaching team for the tour with the inclusion of Graham Rowntree and Neil Jenkins, said there was no harder place to go than New Zealand to meet the double world champions on their home turf.

Players selected would have to front up when it mattered and that involved digging deep. That meant it wasn't always possible to play 'pretty rugby' but it was what was in the head and the heart that mattered.

"Those are the big things that really matter, particularly against New Zealand," he said.
Meanwhile, Gatland told the BBC that his captain for the tour would not be guaranteed a starting place in the Test matches.

"I think the captaincy is a great honour, but whoever the captain is going to be there'll be no guarantee he plays in the Tests.

"His form has to be good enough. I think whoever that person is has to rise to that. The message to that person is: it's a great honour to captain the Lions but your form has to be good enough to be selected for the Tests," he said.

And for those selected in the same position for the tour as the captain, Gatland said he would be telling them, 'if your form is good enough and you play better than the captain, then there's every opportunity you can play in the Tests'.

That view was at odds with the 2005 coach Sir Clive Woodward who said the captain must play.

"You need one person who is going to be in the Test team without a shadow of a doubt – a Brian O'Driscoll, Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio-type of figure," he said.

Woodward's choice for the job would be Wales flanker Sam Warburton.

One of the captaincy contenders, Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones faces a nervous few days before a scan of his left shoulder which was injured in Wales' loss to France at the weekend.