Former Lions Star Says Gatland’s Lions Tour Smacks Of Bad Planning
Warren Gatland’s non-use of his ‘geography six’ from the Lions replacements bench against the Hurricanes on Tuesday smacks of poor tour planning according to Austin Healey.
The former Lions and England star, turned pundit says Gatland has compounded his mistakes with more errors. His handling of the “geography six” has been extremely poor, that damages the Lions brand as a whole.
“One of the first things you are taught as a player is don’t compound an initial mistake with another error – i.e. don’t make a bad situation any worse. Unfortunately that is precisely what Warren Gatland has done with his handling of the “geography six” Healey wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.
“Initially I held back from criticising Gatland about calling up Kristian Dacey, Allan Dell, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Gareth Davies and Finn Russell. His explanation was that the proximity of the Wales and Scotland tours would help those players acclimatise a lot quicker.
“Even if you disagree with the principles involved, the logic is clear. I also believe that a commercial consideration counted against England players based in Argentina.
“If Gatland had to fight to expand his initial squad then you can bet the beancounters will have put their foot down on paying for business class flights from South America to New Zealand.
“Yet surely Gatland must have been aware of how his decision would be perceived. The Lions have always marketed themselves as being the absolute pinnacle of British and Irish rugby.
“So much store is placed in the fact that only the very best get to wear the shirt. Then you pick Dacey and Hill ahead of Dylan Hartley and Joe Launchbury. A backlash was inevitable.
“In this case, Gatland has brought it all upon himself. In effect, he was limiting himself to two replacements – George Kruis and Leigh Halfpenny – for the 31-31 draw against the Hurricanes on Tuesday. That meant the entire front row putting in an 80-minute shift which effectively rules them out of starting the second Test.
“All of this smacks of poor planning. You don’t want to pick out individuals but there are probably five backs and three forwards who simply should not have been picked. Their performances and ability simply did not merit selection. If you are going to play that Gatland style of play you take Richard Wigglesworth and Mike Brown every day. Those are not even 50 per cent decisions.
“Instead you pick a back three that’s quite lively but that will make mistakes and will cost you points. You saw that with Liam Williams. He was brilliant on the break and helped create one of the great Lions tries. But then he drops a high ball and Reiko Ioane scores.
“Gatland needed to have gone on the tour knowing who his back three was going to be. He didn’t and that made him a hostage to form. George North is a prime example. Gatland is not playing a style of rugby where he is going to touch the ball a lot so he hasn’t impressed yet he remains his most dangerous strike weapon.
“Hearing the Lions lost the first Test because of “missed opportunities” makes me want to scream.
““Missed opportunities” actually hides the detail which is that the All Blacks are a lot quicker of thought and deed. Elliot Daly couldn’t finish his chances because Israel Dagg got back to get his arm under the ball.
“Think quickly, act quickly. That’s what is worrying about the second Test is that the All Blacks will not get any slower.”