Gatland gets up close and personal with England

Warren Gatland this week sat alongside the England players and coaches in their de-brief of their win over Ireland last weekend as he continued his tour around the four Home Unions in the build-up to the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour. [more]

Gatland gets up close and personal with England

Warren Gatland this week sat alongside the England players and coaches in their de-brief of their win over Ireland last weekend as he continued his tour around the four Home Unions in the build-up to the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour.

The Lions head coach is spending time with all four teams during the RBS 6 Nations and joined the England squad at their St George’s Park base on Tuesday. He spent the whole day watching the players going through their routines as they launched the countdown to their round three clash with France.

“I had a great welcome and after sitting down with Stuart Lancaster and his coaches for a chat I was able to sit in on the de-brief of the win over Ireland in Dublin. It was well presented by all the coaches, was interesting and very insightful,” said Gatland.

“I had spent time the week before with the Welsh players, and will do the same with the Scots next week and the Irish the week after. The English camp is a very friendly, open, disciplined and courteous environment and I was very impressed by what I saw.

“I have frequently put on record my admiration for the way in which Stuart Lancaster has gone about his business since taking over the top job in England. He has set high standards, proper parameters and is getting the players to respond accordingly.

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“The fact my visit coincided with all the furore over comments I made to a journalist about wanting to protect the English players in the Lions party from external forces made it all the more apt. I mixed with the players and was blown away once again by the interest in, and desire to be a part of, the Lions experience.

“It still amazes me that out of a one and a half hour interview, a lot of which was spent discussing English rugby, a 13 word headline is all that people read and remember. In many ways, the media reaction, or over-reaction, to what I actually said and meant merely served to highlight the negativity I am seeking to guard against.

“We are leaving no stone unturned in our planning for the tour to Australia and protecting the players, sometimes from themselves, from the Australian and their own media, is a part of that process. We have to plan for every eventuality.

“For the record, as was also reported in the original article, but largely overlooked, ‘the best players will be selected’. It has always been that way with the Lions and always will be.”

The opening rounds of the RBS 6 Nations gave Gatland the chance to see Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland (twice) in action and he will be at two more games in round three. So how have the first two rounds been for the Lions head coach?

“I have been pleased with what I’ve seen so far. We had a lot of good rugby in the opening round, but last weekend was far more attritional, largely because of the weather,” admitted Gatland.

“But last week’s action was also full of guts, character and attitude, which was great to see. England have done well in their opening two games and the tournament looks like being very tight.”

This weekend sees the start of the Super Rugby season in the southern hemisphere and Gatland will be ‘glued’ to the TV as he runs his eye over four of the five Australian franchises this weekend when the Rebels host the Force in Melbourne on Friday night and the Brumbies welcome the Reds the next day.

“With all the quality players coming back from injury in Australia this season they could potentially have a different team to 2012. They will certainly have greater strength in depth,” said Gatland.

“We will launch our analysis on the leading Aussie players from this weekend and begin to compile a data-base on the players we will be meeting in June and July. We already know a lot about many of them, but the analysts will be doing even more homework during the Super Rugby season to fine tune everything we need.”
 

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