Gatland must pick on form not record

Thu, 21 Mar 2013 13:03
Large gatland farrell rowntree ho Large ian mcgeechan cheers 630 Large warren gatland sydney harbo Large ian mcgeechan medal 630 Large warren gatland bar

Former B&I Lions coach Ian McGeechan has urged current mentor Warren Gatland to select players primarily on form, rather than their reputation.

Former British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan has urged current mentor Warren Gatland to select players primarily on form, rather than their reputation.

Gatland is due to announce his squad for the forthcoming tour of Australia towards the end of next month and McGeechan, a veteran of several Lions tours as both player and coach, said it was vital the New Zealander's party hit the ground running.

"You need to take fit players," McGeechan, who had Gatland as an assistant coach during the Lions' series loss to South Africa on their most recent tour in 2009, said.

"With only a six-week preparation period you can't have players carrying injuries or players out of form," the Scottish great added.

"That's the big call for the coaches, picking fit players who are on form who can then come together, so you are working with what you want to do right from the word go with players doing every training session and available for games.

"You can't find form and if you are injured you haven't got the time.

"That's been the mistake in the past, in that players who have not been in form or have been injured have gone because the coach thinks he's the best player in the position based on reputation, not performance.

"I think the three months prior to the tour is the critical period."

Gatland has been seconded to the Lions from his day job as Wales coach and although concerns have been expressed about a 'foreigner' taking charge of the combined side drawn from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales following the ill-fated stint of Graham Henry in Australia in 2001, McGeechan is convinced the Lions have got the right man for the job.

"When you are trying to put together a top-class, world-class Test team, if you have got that little bit of continuity you are away from first base straight away.

"I think Warren Gatland was the right appointment, he's an outstanding coach but he also understands the Lions and has experience from 2009. So it will be lot of similar management people and maybe a third to a half of the players.

"You are not starting from scratch knowing you have five weeks to be Test match ready."

The Lions have not won a series since triumphing in South Africa in 1997.

In an era where professional clubs and national sides are ever more reluctant to have their star players take part in a gruelling series which can often leave them jaded the following season, McGeechan knows how much beating the Wallabies would mean to the Lions -- and how hard that will be.

"You are playing southern hemisphere countries who take it all pretty seriously anyway, they have had years to put a team together," he said.

"They are bedded in and know what they are doing. The Lions have high-quality players but what you have to do is work out the best way of getting that talent to show in Test match conditions.

"Sometimes it's about not over-complicating it, it's being very clear and straightforward about what you want.

"The downside of 2009 is that we didn't win the series. The upside was that we probably played the best rugby seen anywhere in the world that year, and in retrospect that's something you get satisfaction from.

"Some of the combinations were fantastic - (Wales') Jamie Roberts and (Ireland's) Brian O'Driscoll were probably the best centre partnership in world rugby that year."

AFP

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 06 May 2016
Crusaders v Reds 07h35 Christchurch
Brumbies v Bulls 09h40 Canberra
Griffons v Eagles 15h00 Welkom
EP Kings v Blue Bulls 16h00 Port Elizabeth
Sat, 07 May 2016
Sunwolves v Force 05h15 Tokyo
Chiefs v Highlanders 07h35 Hamilton
Waratahs v Cheetahs 09h40 Sydney
Leopards v Boland 12h30 Potchefstroom
Griquas v Border 13h00 Kimberley
Sharks v Hurricanes 13h00 Durban
Pumas v Namibia 13h00 Mpumalanga
Golden Lions v Free State Cheetahs 13h00 Randburg
Wasps v London Irish 14h30 Ricoh Arena
Worcester Warriors v Saracens 14h30 Sixways
Bath v Leicester Tigers 14h30 Recreation Ground
Gloucester v Northampton Saints 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs 14h30 Twickenham
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks 14h30 Kingston Park
Zebre v Dragons 15h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Munster v Scarlets 15h00 Thomond Park
Ospreys v Ulster 15h00 Liberty Stadium
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors 15h00 Sportsground
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 15h00 BT Murrayfield
Leinster v Treviso 15h00 RDS
Kings v Blues 15h05 Port Elizabeth
Sharks v Western Province 15h30 Durban
B&I LIONS
MORE LOGS