British & Irish Lions
Gatland facing anxious fortnight
May 13, 2013
Leicester hooker Tom Youngs and scrum-half Ben Youngs pose having linked up with the rest of the Lions squad in London © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has suggested that those players not involved in culmination of the domestic season may have an advantage when it comes to getting the nod for the first Test against Australia.
Lions players chasing domestic silverware
The Lions' 37-man squad met up for the first time in London today ahead of their eagerly-awaited tour Down Under but the 14 players from either Ulster, Leinster, Leicester and Northampton will soon return to their respective clubs to resume their quest for domestic glory.
Gatland will be a keen observer when Leinster take on Stade Francais in the Amlin Challenge Cup final on Friday night when six of his players - including centre Brian O'Driscoll and fly-half Jonathan Sexton - will be on display. Gatland's anxiety will extend to the following weekend when Leinster tackle Ulster in the RaboDirect PRO12 final on May 25 with Leicester and Northampton set to go head-to-head for the Aviva Premiership crown the same day.
Those players will be handed a well-earned break as the dust settles on the season and as a result will not be considered for the Lions' opening tour game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1. That hands the remainder of the squad the chance to lay down an early marker that may well be rewarded come the opening clash with the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 22.
"The first three-and-a-half weeks will be about preparation for the first Test," Gatland told PA Sport. "The players that prepare for that first game (in Hong Kong) are going to have the biggest advantage on tour.
"They are the players not involved in the finals so they are going to have the best preparation in the next couple of weeks. The players coming back from finals are going to be at a disadvantage because of their lack of preparation time. So the team that plays the Barbarians should be in reasonable shape in terms of their preparations in the next couple of weeks."
Gatland is well aware of the risk of injury but does not want his players to hold anything back in their quest for silverware. "It's tough for the players in terms of they know a few days after a big game they are on the plane," he said. "There is a bit of trepidation about not picking up injuries. But if you go in with that attitude and try and look after yourself there is more chance of picking up an injury, so the advice to those players is to go hell for leather."
Warren Gatland faces an anxious few weeks%]
O'Driscoll is one of those to have already picked up an injury with a back spasm forcing him out of Leinster's PRO12 semi-final victory over Glasgow. But Gatland has played down the injury and expects him to feature in his province's quest for euro glory later this week. "The information has just been to keep him off his feet for 48 hours and it is something that he has had that tends to come once a year at some stage, it is normally just the case of an epidural at some stage," Gatland said.
"We have known in the past he has had problems with his back and that it has gone into spasms during a game. It normally takes just a few days to relieve the pain. We will keep our fingers crossed he is able to play in the two Leinster games that are coming up."
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