Gatland to give fair crack to all

Warren Gatland insists every single member of his squad will have a chance to push for the Test team when Britain and Ireland's elite head Down Under in 2013. [more]

Gatland to give fair crack to all

Warren Gatland insists every single member of his squad will have a chance to push for the Test team when Britain and Ireland’s elite head Down Under in 2013.

The man charged with leading the Lions to series success in Australia next summer knows that creating a unified approach and ensuring everyone gets a fair crack at the whip will be absolutely vital prior to the three-match clash with the Wallabies.

The 2009 tour to South Africa saw a return to those unique Lions values and Gatland is determined to ensure the class of 2013 avoid the mistakes made the last time the Lions faced the Aussies 11 years ago.

“I don’t think so, no,” was Gatland’s response when asked if he would end up picking his Test team based on what he knows before he leaves these shores rather than what he learns on the other side of the world.

“I think that was a mistake that was made in 2001. If you talk to the players that were involved back then, it was almost as if the team was separated before they hopped on the plane.

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“Everyone knew ‘that’s the Test team, and we’re the mid-week team’. I’m conscious of that going out there. I want to make this a happy tour and make it a competitive tour.

“There’ll be a bit of mixing and matching in those first games. That will keep the players guessing but they’ll also be able to say ‘I’ve had a chance here and if I play well enough I’ll be selected’.

“The advantage those players who get selected for the first game have is that they get a chance to put themselves in the shop window. That’s great for them.”

With the need to ensure all his players feel like they will be treated equally on tour, Gatland is aware of the importance of separating his role as Lions coach from his position as Wales boss.

Gatland led Wales to a second Grand Slam in five seasons last term but won’t be involved with the first two autumn internationals against Argentina and Samoa or any of the five Six Nations fixtures next spring.

Instead the New Zealander has been seconded to the Lions so that he can give 100 per cent to the cause, something he believes is hugely important when it comes to gathering information and proving his impartiality.

“I’ve got to get around and spend time watching the other teams. I’ve got to show the players that I’m there to watch them and that they’ve got that chance to impress me,” added Gatland.

“I’ve got to demonstrate impartiality. There’s no getting away from the fact that I’m the Welsh coach but I think the right decision has been made in terms of trying to give enough time to fully devote myself to the role.

“I need to be able to watch the other teams and not be tied up with Wales during that Six Nations period.

“For the next 10 months, it’s all about doing the best possible job for the Lions. If I get myself mixed up with both, I’m not going to do justice to either. I’m fully focused on my job with the Lions and on doing that properly.

“The Lions need to be represented properly. It’s important that the Lions are successful and that we win.

“I remember when the Lions came to New Zealand in 1971: teams weren’t supposed to beat the All Blacks and that had a big impact on me psychologically and mentally. You then think about what the Lions did in South Africa in 1974, and in Australia in 1989 (and again in South Africa in 1997), and it’s about getting back to that and making the Lions successful.”

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