Warren Gatland has restated his intention to name his British and Irish Lions tour party no earlier than the 30th April.
The Lions Head Coach has been under pressure to name the squad earlier in order that the kit suppliers and others associated with the tour would have more time in which to operate, however with potentially crucial European club games in the week leading up to the 30th he said he felt he had to wait:
“We came under a bit of pressure to name the squad a week earlier from the suppliers who have to get a lot of the gear out, get the players suits done and stuff.â€
“But that is a week that could potentially be significant where there is a lot up for grabs and it gives players who may have been injured more opportunity to come back.”
The New Zealander also expressed his delight that the Six Nations was finished with a high pressure Championship decider, following a drop off in quality after the opening round:
“We couldn’t have asked for any more for the finale with one team playing for the Grand Slam and the other team still in with a chance of winning the Championship.â€
“That set it up for us with a good level of intensity and physicality. We felt there was a little bit of a fall-off in the quality of some of the games but not in terms of the character and guts that were shown.”
Talking of guts, Gatland will have been pleased to hear that 2009 captain Paul Oâ€™Connell is scheduled to play for Munster this week after a long term injury, while Dan Lydiate and Ross Rennie also return, while Tommy Bowe is expected to return to the Ulster side in time to stake a claim for a Lions place.
Simon Zeboâ€™s chances look less good though, while Scotlandâ€™s Richie Gray is also very much touch and go in terms of being fit early enough to prove himself.
The Lions first match is on the 1st June against the Barbarians in Hong Kong before they play their first game in Australia on the 5th, against Western Force.