Tensions between British & Irish coach Warren Gatland and the English Premiership could cause a number of star players to miss the upcoming tour of South Africa.
According to the Telegraph, Premiership Rugby has threatened to block the release of players for a British & Irish Lions training camp, which has led Gatland to warn that he could leave England’s star players out of the tour.
The Lions will already be without any players who will be involved in the Premiership playoffs for a two-week training camp in Jersey. The Premiership final also takes place on the same day as the Lions’ warm-up match against Japan on 26 June, but the competition has refused to bring it forward to allow Gatland to have a full contingent to select.
Speaking after the announcement of the Lions coaching staff, Gatland also claimed that the Premiership has refused to release anybody from the competition’s 12 teams until the final is concluded, which he said could compromise their chances of making the final squad.
‘We are looking at going to Jersey for a two-week camp, so the last thing I’d want is for players to miss out on the tour because of [not being available] that,’ Gatland said.
‘I’m just hoping we can get some resolution and common sense will prevail, so we don’t have to go through the squad, start looking at 50-50 calls on players and thinking: “Well, he’s based in England so unfortunately he’s not going to be available to us”.
‘There are some tough calls to make and I’ll be looking at it and thinking, “Is two weeks’ preparation for that game and the tour better than trying to put a squad together at the last minute, to get on the plane and play the following week? Is that going to be a harder challenge than actually picking players who you can work and prepare with?”
‘There have been agreements in the past and the Lions have always compensated clubs for the release of players – something they didn’t really have to do because the regulations allow for release on a certain date,’ Gatland added.
‘If some of those players are not available for that preparation time, we can only have a small group or we’ve got to call in extra stand-by players to play in that game, then when we are doing our final selection, with the amount of competition, unfortunately some of those players may miss out.’
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