Warren Gatland on the hunt for versatility with British and Irish lions traveling light and naming just 36 players for the South Africa summer tour
- Warren Gatland will name a sleek Lions squad for their tour of South Africa
- The head coach must select only 36 players for the expedition disrupted by Covid
- Gatland chose 41 men for his first squad in 2017 and picked 37 four years earlier
Warren Gatland will name the sleekest Lions squad of the 21st century on May 6 ahead of the summer tour of South Africa.
The Kiwi head coach, who will be in charge of a third consecutive British and Irish expedition, will select just 36 players for the Covid-disrupted journey, which will culminate in a series of three tests against World Champion Springboks.
In 2017, Gatland chose 41 men from his first squad for the New Zealand tour, while 37 were selected to go to Australia four years earlier.
Warren Gatland will name the sleekest lion team of the 21st century on May 6
Prior to that, the squadrons in 2009, 2005 and 2001 were numbered 37, 44 and 38 respectively. The timing of the scheduled Lions roster and captaincy announcement gives candidates up to five additional matches to call for inclusion.
Saracens aren’t in Championship action this weekend, so Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, the Vunipola brothers, Elliot Daly and Jamie George have four more matches – against Bedford, Doncaster, Ealing and Nottingham – before Gatland makes his roster final.
With such a limited number in the tour group, there will be little room for bolters from outside the test teams.
In 2017, Gatland chose 41 men in his first roster, but this year they will be down to just 36
There will be an emphasis on utility value, so players who can switch between the second and back rows, and between the back three and the midfield – Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Daly, George North – will be special seen. useful.
In 2013, when Gatland named 37 players, there were 21 forwards and 16 backs. For each of the last two tours, he initially chose six props, three hookers, five locks, three scrum halves, and seven back-three players.
The likely team size also suggests that the Lions will be able to call out injury replacements as and when needed throughout the tour, without having to quarantine these late additions upon arrival in South Africa.
Use value will be emphasized with multifaceted stars considered more useful by Gatland
After it was confirmed last week that the tour would go ahead as planned, urgent discussions are taking place with a view to any forced changes to the schedule or match venues.
Talking about a schedule reduction may be unfounded, as the Lions are still aiming to play five tour matches and three Tests, as well as a pre-departure clash against Japan at Murrayfield.
Officials hope the entire Lions tour group got at least one Covid-19 vaccination shot before they leave.