Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Sport | By Ellis Neal

Lions call up 4 Wales players as tour reinforcements

Lions call up 4 Wales players as tour reinforcements

"They are all Test-match players", the scrum-half said.

"I looked back at 2013 (in Australia) and between the first and third tests we made nine different selections". If this was part of Gatland's plan all along, then I think it should have been publicly flagged from the outset.

As expected, all six of the controversial call-ups are among the replacements as Gatland looks to protect as numerous Test 23 as possible.

"We got in behind them, we created some stuff and when you look at the attacking ability of the Maori backline they didn't cause us too many problems".

Russell, the key man in Scotland's 24-19 win over the Wallabies on Saturday, was the only one of the six believed to have come anywhere close to being selected for the Lions' original tour party.

"Finn is a quality operator".

Up to now the Lions have been on the receiving end of persistent criticism of their scrummaging, their style of play and perceived splits in the camp.

The trusty Halfpenny nailed all seven kicks to stay flawless with the boot on tour, scoring 22 points on the night, and Gatland will be looking for more of the same from the Lions when they face Chiefs on Tuesday.

Today Chiefs coach Dave Rennie named his team to play the Lions which includes a lot of fringe players with many first choice players on All Black duties, or have just lined up for New Zealand Maori in their 32-10 loss to the Lions in Rotorua last night.

Tour captain Sam Warburton isn't involved - which points to him facing the All Blacks - while Jonathan Joseph is another name conspicuous by its absence.

He strained a thigh on Thursday, raising concerns about the Tests, but he will be back in training today to prepare for Saturday.

Gatland added: "There's no doubt that there's some pressure on certain players and certain combinations have gone well". We just made a decision that it wasn't worth taking that risk.

"So there will be some tough debates and discussions to have on the final make-up of what the back-row is going to be for Saturday".

He wants to ring-fence the matchday squad of 25 for the first and second Tests and ensure none of these players have to sit on the bench in the midweek games against the Chiefs tomorrow and the Hurricanes next week.

Courtney Lawes has recovered from a head knock against the Highlanders to start alongside Iain Henderson in the second row, while CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric and James Haskell make up the Lions' loose forward trio.

Hill, fresh from being vice-captain in Wales' win against Tonga in Auckland, is joined on the bench by fellow cover players Kristian Dacey, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis.

The Chiefs' selection casts the spotlight on a number of their rising stars including wingers Toni Pulu and Solomon Alaimalo, center Johnny Faauli and backrower Lachlan Boshier.

Maori All Blacks: J Lowe; N Milner-Skudder, M Proctor, C Ngatai, R Ioane; D McKenzie, T Kerr-Barlow; K Hames, A Dixon (capt), B May, J Wheeler, T Franklin, A Ioane, E Dixon, L Messam.

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