The British and Irish Lions have called up an additional two Scottish players following the earlier announcement that four Welsh players have been added to bolster their squad ahead the final warm-up match before the first Test with the All Blacks.
Scottish fly-half Finn Russell is joined by South African-born prop Allan Dell in receiving a call-up from Lions coach Warren Gatland, and the pair will travel from Australia to New Zealand in Sunday following their Test against the Wallabies on Saturday.
They follow the additions of prop Tomas Francis, hooker Kristian Dacey, lock Cory Hill and scrum-half Gareth Davies, with the quartet already in New Zealand after featuring in Wales’ 24-6 victory over Tonga on Saturday in Auckland, and will have already joined up with the squad head of their first training session on Sunday.
The decision by Gatland to bring more players in has given All Blacks’ head coach Steve Hansen plenty of ammo to target his Kiwi compatriot with, and Hansen could not prevent himself from having a dig at Gatland following New Zealand’s 78-0 demolition of Samoa on Friday night. Hansen compared the current Lions squad to the one that suffered a 3-0 series defeat under Sir Clive Woodward in 2005, with the former England head coach bringing 45 players into the Test series and splitting the group into to squads for the Tests and midweek games.
It means that the likes of Joe Launchbury, George Ford and Gary Ringrose continue to be overlooked, despite starring for England and Ireland on their respective summer tours. It has led to criticism from England head coach Eddie Jones, who suggested that Gatland was devaluing the Lions shirt because he should be calling up players on “merit rather than geographical proximity”.
“It’s only a 13-hour trip from here to New Zealand,” jones said in Argentina. “The [England] boys could be there.
He added when speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live: “The Lions is a prestigious team – when you become a Lions, you’re remembered for life. My only comment would be I would like to see it picked on merit rather than geographical proximity.”
However, Gatland has claimed since September that this was always a consideration to bring in reinforcements even if there were not many injuries, although it has drawn public criticism with England and Ireland players overlooked simply due to the travelling time it would take to fly their players over from Argentina and Japan respectively ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Chiefs..
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