Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton say Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions replacements are ‘ridiculous’
Former internationals say picking players simply because they are nearby is damaging to the Lions’ principles as rugby’s pinnacle
Warren Gatland, head coach of the British & Irish Lions, has devalued the jersey by calling up second string Welsh and Scottish players as injury replacements, say former internationals Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton.
Kristian Dacey, Cory Hill, Tomas Francis and Gareth Davies have been brought into the Lions squad from the Welsh team playing in New Zealand. Finn Russell and Allan Dell have flown over from Scotland’s tour of Australia.
The players have been picked because they are in similar or the same time zones as the Lions and would take less time to adjust than the Irish and English players in the Americas.
“You should be with the Lions due to ability and form. Not where you are in the world,” said Goode.
“Warren Gatland has completely devalued the lions,” said Hamilton. “You’re telling me that Cory Hill’s going to play for the Lions again? Never.”
Goode and Hamilton singled out Joe Launchbury, England’s second row, as a player that should have been added to the squad. Hamilton, who won 63 caps for Scotland, said that now Hill is with the squad, if there are more injuries Hill will have been considered for the tests, instead of the best player in his position, Launchbury.
“It’s ridiculous,” Hamilton said.
Both men said that playing for the Lions would have been great as it is pinnacle of their sport, but they understand that perhaps the timing was wrong during their careers or that they were not good enough. So, to see the chance to play for the Lions given to players simply because of where they are, or because they are Welsh, is difficult to stomach. They admitted they had never even heard of Cory Hill until the announcement. Hamilton even questioned the selection of his fellow Scot, Dell, as the second or third choice prop for his country.
“They’re calling up everyone and anyone,” Goode, the second highest point scorer in the English Premiership, said. “Jim’s got his boots and he’s only just retired!”
Gatland responded to criticism in general by saying the focus of the tour has always been the test matches, and not the midweek games. “Bringing in these players from an identical time zone, who can hit the ground running and step straight in rather than having to adjust following long-haul travel, will help us manage players before the first test,” he said, according to Sky Sports.
“In terms of devaluing the shirt, I can see some people’s point of that but we’re here to win a test series,” The Independent reported Gatland a saying.
Watch: British & Irish Lions 32-10 Maori All Blacks – highlights
Lions must play boring rugby to win
“When the Lions get into an offloading game, like Auckland’s [The Blues], the Lions have struggled. When it’s a set piece battle, which potentially the lions have to play in poor conditions, we have a chance,” Goode said.
A strong set piece and solid defence and kick chase, with physicality in the break down is the game plan that will give the Lions a fighting chance against the All Blacks, the former internationals said.
“It’s a boring way of playing, but you have to play to your strengths,” Goode said. “If we try and play like them, we’ll come unstuck.”
He called the style of play that led to the 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks a blueprint for the test games.
“I was really impressed with Ben Teo today [against the Maori All Blacks],” Hamilton said. “Before that, he wasn’t a player I raved about as much as others. But I thought he was excellent today. Him and Jonathan Davis showing how they work well together with Teo on the crash line and Davis on the outside line.”
The losses against the Highlanders and the Blues are not significant indicators of what is to come as that was not the first choice side, Hamilton and Goode said, but beating the All Blacks at home when they are at the top of the game is an almost “impossible task”.