Lions Test places still up for grabs ahead of Chiefs clash
- Author: Julie Sanders Jun 19, 2017,
Jun 19, 2017, 15:00
Warburton's absence will be seen as a bost to his prospects of being included in the matchday Test squad after the Welshman continued his comeback from an ankle injury on Saturday as a back-row replacement in the 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks.
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.
South African referee Jaco Peyper is on the whistle for the first Test next weekend in Auckland, with Jerome Garces and Romain Poite to adjudicate the other two clashes, and Gatland is calling on them to shut down the Kiwis' attempts to obstruct his Lions players.
"Warren's made it no secret this was his plan all along", said scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.
"I think we took the legs away from the Maori team in terms of the power we demonstrated up front", said Gatland.
England coach Eddie Jones, who is in Argentina with his side, had appealed to Gatland to choose reinforcements on "merit rather than geographical proximity".
"There's no doubt there's some pressure on him (Warburton) because certain players and certain combinations have gone well".
Asked about the blocking suggestions on Monday, All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino said: "As long as you are within the rules, I don't think there is any problem".
Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies were called up by Gatland from the Wales squad which beat Tonga on Friday and Allan Dell and Finn Russell from the Scotland team that beat Australian on Saturday.
15-Shaun Stevenson, 14-Toni Pulu, 13-Tim Nanai-Williams, 12-Johnny Faauli, 11-Solomon Alaimalo, 10-Stephen Donald (captain), 9-Finlay Christie, 8-Tom Sanders, 7-Lachlan Boshier, 6-Mitchell Brown, 5-Michael Allardice, 4-Dominic Bird, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Liam Polwart, 1-Siegfried Fisi'ihoi. The unfortunate thing is we are here for such a short time but I'm really looking forward to what should be a great occasion on Tuesday night for what should be a great atmosphere in a proper rugby ground.
"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".
"I was always confident about Owen Farrell being fit."
Gatland's Lions turned their 72 percent share of possession into a 75 percent territorial advantage, and pressuring the Maori into mistakes enabled fullback Leigh Halfpenny to kick six penalties.
"Apart from that it's bumps and bruises, we took George Kruis off relatively early because his calf was a bit tight".
"There's an opportunity for Liam Williams to go and impress at full-back".
You watch the All Blacks and they bust a gut and it's not just one them - it's two or three at a time. Sexton could be squeezed out as a result of Ben Te'o's strong form, but there is a strong chance that the double-pivot is the card that Gatland has been waiting to play.