Lions Boss Warren Gatland Sends Warning Out To England Players Following Dispute

Common sense.

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland has warned that England players could miss out on selection for next year’s tour of South Africa if the dispute with Premiership Rugby is not solved.

The Premiership Rugby final is set to clash with the Lions warm-up Test against Japan in Scotland next year and while it’s understandable players who make the final will not be available for selection, Premiership Rugby have said no players will be released for the Murrayfield fixture.

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Gatland, who will be taking charge of a Lions tour for the third time, has warned that 50/50 calls could go against English players if they are not made available for selection from the start.

But he hopes common sense will prevail.

“I can tell you we will be taking the best team we possibly can, the best players, but the hard reality of the situation is that I just hope it doesn’t impact on any players or selections,” Gatland said.

“You end up with a 50/50 call on a player, and a player who is able to be there for a week’s camp in Wales and a week’s preparation for the Japan game might get the nod against someone who has unfortunately not been available until only one week before the first match in South Africa.

“It’s a challenge at the moment and I just hope that some common sense will prevail in negotiations.

“I fully understand with the Premiership final and players not being available because they are tied up with that, but I would love to see other players being released for the Lions.

“I just hope we can come to some agreement where we do have access to the players.”

When asked if he thinks a resolution can be found, Gatland said that Premiership Rugby “haven’t always been the easiest to deal with” in his experience.

“They haven’t always been the easiest to deal with! They have their own ways of doing things,” Gatland added.

“At the moment nothing is set in stone, they have come out and made a statement. It’s a little bit like Brexit, isn’t it? It’s a bit of a game in terms of whether we end up with a deal that is satisfactory for all.

“That’s what I’m hoping, I don’t think it’s worth firing shots at each other and hopefully we can come to some agreement.

“Maybe the players association and players might voice their opinion about what they think about that.

“I think that’s a pretty powerful voice to be heard from the players about their opportunities and going on a Lions tour and having the best chance and preparation to go on tour.”

You can listen to the full Gatland interview on this week’s episode of the Up and Under Podcast.

Warren Gatland was speaking on behalf of Canterbury at the launch of the British & Irish Lions Pro jersey available at Canterbury.com