Warren Gatland likely to mix up selection for Lions tour opener

Warren Gatland likely to mix up selection for Lions tour opener
The British and Irish Lions tackle Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Warren Gatland is likely to mix up selection for the Britisk and Irish Lions’ first encounter on South African soil.

De Lions will face the Emirates Lions in their first in-country tour clash in Johannesburg på lørdag, following on from last weekend’s 28-10 victory over Japan in Edinburgh.

Head coach Gatland remains determined to field all his tourists in match action across the opening matches on tour, in a bid to hand as many chances as possible for players to impress.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell missed out in Edinburgh due to the after-effects of a minor ankle issue, so could well come into contention to feature at Emirates Airline Park.

Gatland knows full well the temptation of honing in straight away on Test match selection – but the experienced Lions chief also remains acutely aware of the dangers that would pose.

Asked if all the players will be given opportunities to play in the first three matches, Gatland said: “Yes absolutely; if you were being totally focussed just on the Tests, you might not engage with that practice.

“But we feel that it is so important for the squad that the players do get a chance to start in those early rounds.

“I have often spoken about the harmony in the squad and players feeling that they’ve had an opportunity.

“From that point of view, we think it’s really important.

“As an ex-player, you would understand that if you started in one of those opening games, you’ll feel like you’ve put yourself in the shop window, you’ve given yourself a chance of impressing and given yourself an opportunity for Test selection.

“That is very much in our thinking. We want everyone to feel that they are a part of it and getting an opportunity.”

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