Gatland explains bench call

Coach Warren Gatland says he didn't use his bench players against the Hurricanes because he didn't want to devalue the British & Irish Lions jersey.

A fortnight ago, Gatland caused an uproar when he called up six players – four from Wales and two from Scotland – to join the Lions squad. He explained that they were drafted in because of their close proximity (Wales were in New Zealand and Scotland in Australia at the time).

Gatland was heavily criticised by those who believed the next best players in those positions should have been called up. British media named the players in question the 'geography six' and said Gatland was devaluing the Lions jersey.

On Tuesday against the Hurricanes, the 'geography six' – front rowers Kristian Dacey, Allan Dell and Tomas Francis, lock Cory Hill and flyhalf Finn Russell – were on the bench, but Gatland didn't bring them on when the players in the starting XV showed signs of fatigue in the last quarter. 

Only Russell was brought on when Dan Biggar was sent for a head injury assessment, but the Scottish flyhalf left the field when Biggar returned.

WATCH: Highlights of Hurricanes vs Lions

'So much was made about devaluing the jersey, so we made a decision we would try and get through the game with as many of the starting XV as we could,' said Gatland.

'I understand people’s views, so you’ve got to take cognisance of that. So we make a collective decision that we make them injury or HIA [head injury assessment] replacements, which is what happened on two occasions.'

In the end, Gatland's stance against substitutions cost the Lions, as the Hurricanes launched a late fightback to snatch a 31-31 draw.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Mariette Adams