Laidlaw defends Gatland's new Lions call-ups, saying: 'They're all Test players'


That match helped Gatland's thinking for the Lions tour and his decision to call in four Wales and two Scotland players has given him the flexibility to run two separate teams for the rest of their trip in New Zealand.

Coach Steve Hansen may want to bite back later in the week but veteran forwards Jerome Kaino and Brodie Retallick were quick to dismiss Gatland's claims ahead of the first Test in Auckland on Saturday.

So, for those silly enough to believe that the haka may be losing its power and appeal, it is time to think again after watching this! England's goal-kicking utility back has been challenged by Gatland to force his way into the Test team.

"So ultimately it's to look after the Test squad, which is so important now at this stage of the series".

Gatland revealed he has raised the issue with officials and will continue to seek clarification, meeting the referee for the First Test, Jaco Peyper of South Africa, on the eve of Saturday's game.

While Tuesday's team contains few, if any, of the players who will face the All Blacks at Eden Park, Gatland says the midweekers will play a role in keeping the Lions' confidence high approaching the three-test series. Unfortunately he rolled his ankle a little bit so hadn't recovered in time. That made it a lot easier for us to get up in the air and to compete. "It's part of the game in New Zealand, all New Zealand teams are doing it at the moment. we've just got to hope the referees, assistant referees and the TMOs pick up what's going on". They were aware of it last night because they spoke about it a lot and they picked it up on a couple of occasions where we ended up with penalties and then a couple of other occasions they spoke about watching certain situations in terms of off the ball stuff.

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British and Irish Lions (v the Chiefs tomorrow, 8.35am BST): L Williams (Wales); J Nowell (England), J Payne, R Henshaw (both Ireland), E Daly (England); D Biggar (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland); J Marler (England), R Best (Ireland), D Cole (England), I Henderson (Ireland), C Lawes, J Haskell (both England), J Tipuric (Wales), CJ Stander (Ireland).

"Any Test in the All Blacks environment is huge, and I think things are slowly starting to amplify now that we are finally getting to the first Lions Test", Kaino said. Leigh Halfpenny obviously took a knock on the weekend, so he's going through the Head Injury Assessment protocols. We took George Kruis off relatively early because his calf was a bit tight.

"But aside from that nothing that's a concern for too long". Any Test match you play, home or away, has always got that pressure.

"We're giving players a chance here from an attacking perspective".

Gatland sang the praises of the back-row combination that was so impressive against the Crusaders and the Maoris and will be tempted to retain all three.

"There's an opportunity for Liam Williams to go and impress at full-back".