Gatland hunting Lions in France

Wed, 05 Sep 2012 13:03
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B&I Lions coach Warren Gatland said he would travel to France on Wednesday to meet with potential squad members.

New British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said he would travel to France on Wednesday to meet with potential squad members for the 2013 tour of Australia and discuss the issue of player release.

The French Top 14 Final is on the same day as the Lions' tour opener against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

Toulon alone have several possible 2013 Lions in Jonny Wilkinson, Delon Armitage, Andrew Sheridan, Simon Shaw and Gethin Jenkins.

Meanwhile Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips is at Bayonne while James Hook, another 2009 Lions tourist, moved to Perpignan at the start of this season.

"I am going to France on Wednesday. I will talk to players down there," New Zealander Gatland said after his appointment was confirmed.

"I will watch Perpignan and Bayonne over the weekend," added Gatland, currently the coach of Wales and previously in charge of Ireland and English Premiership side Wasps.

"It is a chance to meet with coaches and talk to players and talk about potential release for the Lions players.

"Ultimately it may be up to the players.

"In 2009, Nathan Hines left Perpignan before a final because the Lions meant so much to him as a player.

"He said 'bugger playing in a French club final I want to be part of a Lions tour'.

"As a management board and coaching staff we will have to discuss that because preparation is so tight.

"If it means players aren't available to get on the plane, it may rule them out," he added.

"We haven't made any hard and fast rules, but we are prepared to make tough and hard decisions."

AFP

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