Gatland's challenge

Gatland talks Lions captains and game plans on The Rugby Club

Last Updated: 18/04/13 10:47am

Warren Gatland spoke to The Rugby Club about his Lions captain and the best game plan to beat Australia.

"Fly-half is such an important pivotal position for us. If we just take two then you feel that they will get three or four games before the first Test."

Warren Gatland

Quotes of the week

Gatland is due to name his British and Irish Lions squad, which is expected to consist of up to 37 players, at the end of the month, and he has had plenty to think about after he watched five of the European quarter-finals over the weekend.

"A couple of players came on the map that we had not really thought of before and we had a couple of players that came back from injury as well," said Gatland.

"I was pleased with the quality and the intensity - I still don't think it was quite up there with the Six Nations matches but it was pretty close.

"I am enjoying selection at the moment but I don't think I am going to be enjoying it when the squad is announced! The amount of info and advice I got over the weekend was incredible. I always say to myself that selection is only a matter of opinion."

Gatland was on hand to watch Munster produce a minor miracle to beat Harlequins and make yet another Heineken Cup semi-final.

Many feel that Munster lock Paul O'Connell, who has recently returned from injury, not only played himself onto the plane, but played himself into the captaincy role too, but Gatland is remaining taciturn.

"He was good but that is what you expect from professional athletes, don't you? You expect players who have been at the top of their game for so long to come back and make an impact and a difference - and he did that.

"It's not about us getting carried away, though - it was just one game and I am going to go and watch him again this weekend and hopefully that form continues."

Captain, my captain

Despite playing things close to his chest, Gatland has hinted that his captain will come from the forwards.

"I can't remember the last time I picked a captain from the backs," he admitted. "I don't think I ever have.

"I have in mind who I want to do it but I have not spoken to them yet as I think that is a little unfair at the moment. I think just about anyone who the media thinks will be captain has been asked if I have spoken to them.

"I will probably leave it as long as possible. I want to make sure that when the squad is announced and the captain is announced that it is something special. I want to keep it quiet - it will be hard but that is the plan."

The make-up of the Lions squad is crucial and Gatland is not afraid to consider young and upcoming stars who have yet to make a mark for their country - and one of those players is London Wasps winger Christian Wade.

"I thought the two tries that Wade scored were pretty impressive for Wasps," added Gatland, who coached Wasps to three consecutive Premiership titles and a Heineken Cup crown.

"I think I have proved in the past that age and experience has been no barrier. If I think someone is good enough and that they can do a job then you pick them."

Lions stock falling

While some players seem to be getting better and better, there are those who are falling from grace - and fast.

Before the Six Nations decider between Wales and England, it looked like England would have the lion's share of players heading Down Under, but that has changed fast.

"Leading up to that game those 50-50 calls between two players may have gone towards an England player," added the Wales coach. "The coin has flipped the other side now.

"For me that last game was the ideal situation to put those players in - the pressure cooker of an international where everything was at stake. After that game you would have to say that a couple of them are not quite ready."

All the names are yet to be pencilled in but what is clearer to Gatland is the numbers game and he revealed he will be taking just two fly-halves.

"Fly-half is such an important pivotal position for us. If we just take two then you feel that they will get three or four games before the first Test.


"If you take three then you are arriving at the first Test with maybe one or two of your out-halves who have not had a lot of game time on the Lions tour.

"With that in mind we thought that if we take two and someone who can cover that position then that is something we will do."

Another one of Gatland's conundrums is whether to pick a style to beat the Aussies and select a team he thinks can pay that style, or pick the best players and find a style that suits them.

"I think if we pick the best players then we will have the ability to play either way. You have to go out to Australia with the ambition to play rugby.

"If you go out there and say we will play nine or 10-man rugby, then we will get caught. We have to go and be prepared to move the ball.

"I think we have the ability and the quality to do that."