Warren Gatland plans busy weekend of Lions scouting
Warren Gatland is not quite as mobile as he once was – two dodgy heels, the legacy of a nasty fall in his native New Zealand last year, have put a brake on the former All Black hooker – but he will still leave his peers standing this weekend.
The British and Irish Lions coach is in the final stages of his selection process for the summer Test series in Australia and as he sees this weekend’s European knock-out games as the tipping point, he plans to attend four ties between now and Sunday.
Gatland will be at Adams Park for tonight’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final between Wasps, who bagged Heineken Cup titles in 2004 and 2007, and Leinster, the reigning European champions and winners of the elite competition three times in the last four years. Neither side is in vintage nick – the Londoners failed to qualify for this season’s Heineken while the Dubliners could not escape their pool – but both have Lions candidates.
The obvious possibility from the hosts is England lock Joe Launchbury, who will start on the blind-side flank tonight. The positional shift is no bad thing – versatility is a prized asset on Lions tours – but there is a growing school of thought that the trip to Wallaby country might come a bit too soon for a 21-year-old forward beginning to feel the effects of an exhausting first year at the top level.
Leinster, on the other hand, have experienced Lions candidates coming out of their ears, despite the absences of two stellar midfielders: the suspended centre Brian O’Driscoll and the injured outside-half Jonathan Sexton. The full-back Rob Kearney, the loose-head prop Cian Healy and the flanker Sean O’Brien could use a big performance in front of Gatland this evening, even though all three are likely tourists. For the tight-head prop Mike Ross and the No 8 Jamie Heaslip, nothing short of a brilliant display will do.
Thanks to the ease of Heineken Cup qualification from the four-nation Pro12 league, Leinster are not chasing the Amlin title for any ulterior motive. Wasps, on the other hand, may need to win the competition to secure a place in the senior tournament next season. Four successive Premiership defeats have undermined their bid for a top-six domestic finish.
“We must go back to basics and play in the right areas, as we were doing earlier in the season,” said David Young, their rugby director. “We’re confident we have enough quality to win the game. It’s exciting to be involved in this kind of occasion.”
Brooklyn Beckham poses in Arsenal training kit following rumours of signing for the Gunners
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Transfer talk: Juan Cuadrado Chelsea move imminent; Manchester United eye Nathaniel Clyne; Andre Schurrle medical at Wolfsburg
Danny Ings to Liverpool: The Reds attempt to steal a march on rivals in race to sign Burnley striker
Kim Sears 'swearing' outburst threatens to overshadow Andy Murray's Australian Open semi-final win
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures