2013 British & Irish Lions
Davies leaps to Gatland's defence
ESPN Staff
February 14, 2013
Newly-appointed Lions tour manager Andy Irvine and committee chairman Gerald Davies, Trafalgar Square, London, England, October 18, 2010
Lions committee chairman Gerald Davies (right) believes coach Warren Gatland was talking common sense in his headline-grabbing interview © Getty Images

British & Irish Lions committee chairman Gerald Davies has launched a vociferous defence of coach Warren Gatland in the wake of a storm sparked by his comments regarding English players.

Gatland hit the headlines yesterday by appearing to suggest he was wary of picking too many England players for this year's tour to Australia in fear it would bring the kind of scrutiny that plagued their 2001 Rugby World Cup campaign. Gatland, who ironically paid a visit to the England training camp this week, has since attempted to clarify his comments and insists he will pick the best players for the job - regardless of nationality.

And the Kiwi coach has received the full backing of Davies, who believes Gatland was speaking "common sense" and his views were taken out of context. "I think there has been a huge over-reaction," Davies told the Western Mail. "It has been way over the top. I feel the headlines have hugely exaggerated what he says in the interview.

"It has been sensationalised out of all proportion. That is unfair on Warren, who actually speaks a lot of good common sense. If you read the article, he is very complimentary about England and how well they are doing at the moment.

"What he does emphasis is that when you go on a Lions tour, good behaviour and good manners are very, very important. Personality and character are important. You are sharing a long trip away from home with players from four different nations. It's important to get along well.

"As well as performing on the field, you need to behave in the right way off it. It's important to be a person that gets on with everyone else."

Davies added: "When people get to know him in person, rather than from what they read in newspapers, they will realise what a really good man he is. The players will be sensible enough to wait for that moment to come along and they will find themselves motivated and inspired by him. They will realise that he's a man with his feet firmly on the ground and a practical man with lots of common sense and ambition."

John Spencer, the Rugby Football Union's representative on the five-man Lions board, is also confident nationality will play no part in the selection process. "I have every confidence that Warren will deal with selection and the playing of players on a very fair and equitable basis," he told the Daily Telegraph. "His preparation as far as the board is concerned has gone really well and is very detailed. He has been very open-minded as far as selection of players is concerned."

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