2013 British & Irish Lions
Woodward questions Gatland's choice of words
ESPN Staff
February 14, 2013
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland fields questions from the media, Ironmonger's Hall, London, September 4, 2012
Lions boss Warren Gatland has since attempted to clarify his headline-grabbing comments © Getty Images

Former British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward has added his voice to those that have questioned Warren Gatland's recent comments regarding the "circus" surrounding the England squad.

Gatland hit the headlines yesterday following a newspaper interview in which he appeared 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 2011 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.

But Woodward, who memorably steered England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003, and a host of other notable former internationals have questioned Gatland's decision to even flirt with the subject. "To publicly voice concern that selecting too many English players might give rise to 'other pressures', as Gatland puts it, is so wide of the mark it is almost comical," Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail. "To suggest you might not pick an England player for fear of creating controversy just doesn't make sense.

"Gatland talks of the storm and media implications that too many English players would bring to the tour - yet look at the effect that his comments have had in the last 36 hours. I have coached the Lions and I have coached England and even hinting that you would pick your squad, or base selection, on anything but merit is a danger.

"Drawing on England's failures at the 2011 World Cup is totally irrelevant. It is also a disservice to what Stuart Lancaster and his team have achieved in the last year. A line needs to be drawn under what happened with England in New Zealand. Gatland's comments imply that picking a majority of England players will create mayhem. If anything goes awry in Australia this summer, Gatland can't very well blame it on England's 2011 World Cup campaign. The buck will stop with him, and Gatland is too experienced to think any different."

Former England hooker Brian Moore was another to wade into the debate. "Gatland comments bizarre and largely unfounded," he wrote on Twitter. "Person not nation determines a good Lion.

"Gatland knows his comments will resonate so he must have a purpose I can't fathom...If made without reason they're needlessly provocative...If he means those comments, I question his sanity and suitability. If he doesn't, I question their suitability and purpose."

Former England captain Will Carling was another to query Gatland's motives. "However misquoted/misguided Gatland was, he definitely needs better PR guidance/briefing," he wrote on the micro-blogging site. "My question is why even discuss it. Always going to be contentious however termed. a no win situation."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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