Duo praised by Lions coach

Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland has given two potential tourists a timely boost just three-and-a-half months out from the summer tour of South Africa. [more]

Duo praised by Lions coach

Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland has given two potential tourists a timely boost just three-and-a-half months out from the summer tour of South Africa.

Having watched his Wales side earn a hard-fought win over England at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday evening, Gatland spoke highly of two men he knows extremely well from different stages in his coaching career.

Firstly, Gatland sung the praises of his national captain, Ryan Jones, after the Ospreys star produced a superb individual performance to lead the reigning Six Nations champions to a prized 23-15 victory over the former World Cup winners.

"It was probably the best I’ve heard Ryan speak in the changing room beforehand,” said Gatland.

"It was pretty motivational to the players and his general all-round display was excellent. “

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Having led his country to Grand Slam success last season, Jones had been widely talked about as a possible Lions skipper.

He has since been largely outshone by the performances of Andy Powell in the Welsh back row, with the form of the Cardiff Blues No8 forcing Jones to switch to the blindside flank. However, after missing the opening round win over Scotland with a calf injury, Jones was back to his very best against Martin Johnson’s men in Cardiff.

"A couple of times in the past I have perhaps been critical of him in terms of starting a little bit slow, but we brought him back in after missing last week and I thought he had a huge game,” added Gatland.

"He took a couple of really critical line-outs and I thought he had a huge game, so well done." 

The second player to be congratulated by Gatland wasn’t a member of his own Welsh side, but a key figure in England’s attempts to inflict a surprise defeat on the tournament favourites.

Joe Worsley may have been an unexpected inclusion in the England starting line up but, having worked closely with the 31-year-old during his time in charge of London Wasps, his promotion from the bench came as no surprise to Gatland.

With pre-match talk suggesting Wales would overwhelm the visitors with a constant supply of quick ball, Gatland knew Worsely would ensure such a prediction would never be fully realised.

"As soon as we saw Joe Worsley’s name in the team we knew it would be a million miles from the truth and it showed why England are the best World Cup team, always strong when their backs are against the wall," added Gatland.

"There is no better big game player than Joe Worsley, we’ve seen him in Guinness and Heineken Cup finals and we knew how immense he would be.

”He knew what he was doing. Give Joe a job, particularly in defence, and he’ll do it." 

A member of the 2003 World Cup winning squad, Worsely had fallen out of favour with England in recent times and was without a start in national colours since the 2007 World Cup. His man-of-the-match performance in the Welsh capital suggests that his next start will not be far away and that a place in the Lions squad could now be far closer than many critics would have thought just three days ago.

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