Euro watch for Warren

Warren Gatland will clock up the miles this week as he does the rounds of the European quarter-finals in search of the final pieces to his British & Irish Lions squad jigsaw. [more]

Euro watch for Warren

Warren Gatland will clock up the miles this week as he does the rounds of the European quarter-finals in search of the final pieces to his British & Irish Lions squad jigsaw.

The Lions head coach is due to attend no fewer than five of the eight quarter-finals in the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, both tournaments he won while he was coaching at London Wasps, and will get the chance to see a number of tour candidates playing in the heat of some very intense battles.

Gatland is due to name his squad of between 35-38 players in London on 30 April and has already stated he has pencilled in abotu a third of the players, including his captain.

His first port of call will be Kingsholm on Thursday night when Gloucester entertain Biarritz Olympique. Home outside half Freddie Burns is bound to come under the spotlight given the injury problems Jonny Sexton is currently experiencing and Gatland will be hoping England No 8 Ben Morgan’s ankle injury has healed well enough for him to get back into action.

England midfield star Billy Twelvetrees will also be able to further his claims for inclusion in the party due to open its 10 match tour in Hong Kong against the Barbarians on Saturday, 1 June.

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Friday night will see Gatland return to his old stamping ground at Adams Park for the second Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final between London Wasps and Leinster. Here he will get the chance to see Leinster’s all international front row in club action together and the back row duo of Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien take on James Haskell and Billy Vunipola.

The Recreation Ground in Bath will be the third stop of the weekend on Saturday lunchtime, when they tackle Stade Francais Paris in the third Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, before he heads back up the M4 to Twickenahm Stadium to see table-topping Saracens take on Ulster in the Heineken Cup.

That game will throw up a number of fascinating battles with England prop Mako Vunipola packing down against experience All Black John Afoa, Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best taken on Schalk Brits and John Smit, Chris Ashton oppose Andrew Trimble and the two young outside halves, England’s Owen Farrell and Ireland’s Paddy Jackson, challenging each other with a place in the semi-finals at stake.

Gatland’s final port of call will be the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday for the Heineken Cup clash between Harlequins and Munster. This game will finally give him the chance to see the 2009 British & Irish Lions skipper Paul O’Connell in action in his biggest game of the season since his comeback after back surgery.
 

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