‘He lost half the team on day one’ – Gatland will not repeat Henry’s 2001 mistake

Warren Gatland says every player has a "chance" to be selected
British and Irish Lions 2017
Dates: 3 June-8 July Venue: New Zealand
Coverage: Live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland says he will not repeat Graham Henry’s 2001 mistake by splitting the squad early in the tour.

Gatland says Henry indicated to his players at the outset of the trip of Australia who would be selected for the Test matches.

He says that meant his compatriot “lost half the team on day one”.

“The players knew straight away what was the Test side and who was making up the numbers,” said the New Zealander.

Gatland, who on Wednesday named his side to face the Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener on Saturday, says each of his 41-man squad is in contention to face the All Blacks.

“Keeping harmony in the squad is paramount,” he said. “It’s about giving everyone an opportunity.

“It’s important these guys feel like they are putting themselves in the shop window and have a chance to prove themselves, and with a little bit of luck are in contention for the Tests.

British and Irish Lions greeted by haka in New Zealand airport

Sexton and Farrell in fly-half fight

Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton appear to be in competition for the fly-half spot after Gatland reiterated he sees the Englishman as a “world-class 10”, rather than a centre.

Irishman Sexton starts on Saturday, with Farrell on the bench.

“The players are pretty aware about the competition in that position,” Gatland said. “Johnny gets a start on Saturday, and the other two [Farrell and Dan Biggar] will get a start in the next two games.”

Gatland’s son Bryn will start for the Provincial Barbarians at fly-half.

“I spoke to Bryn last night and he’s enjoying the week,” Gatland Sr said. “We’ll catch up tomorrow, and he’ll expect to have to make a few tackles on the weekend.

“We haven’t spoken too much about the game but he’s excited about the opportunity.”

Lions dispatch

A round-up of the rest of the news from the tour

Lions boss Gatland was put on the spot in Thursday’s news conference by a local reporter, who quoted a survey that found 78% of Kiwis couldn’t name a single player from the Lions squad.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” was Gatland’s retort. “Our job is to come here, play some good rugby and earn respect. If we reduce that number down to 77% that will be a good start….”

Targeting the opposition captain is a well-worn tactic before big sporting series – think Steve Waugh and the Australian cricket team – but the New Zealand media seem to have been won over by the “calm, composed, and eloquent” Sam Warburton.

The Welshman starts and captains Saturday’s tour opener as he tries to do what no other man has done in history, and lead the Lions to back-to-back series victories.

For the first time, provincial teams the Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs will join the Maori and the All Blacks in conducting their versions of the Haka before matches.

Unperturbed, Gatland has suggested the Haka is in danger of losing its mystique, and that it will soon become routine for his players: “The more times you face up to it, you don’t mind it, it’s a motivational thing, it’s not intimidating.

View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/40116662

“And I’m pleased my players will face it more than once. You become familiar with it. It becomes part of regular preparation for a game.”

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