Gatland urges Lions hopefuls to go easy on each other
March 8, 2013
Lions boss Warren Gatland is hoping players will give England's Chris Ashton an easy ride for the remainder of the championship © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has issued an extraordinary request ahead of the final stages of the 2013 Six Nations.
The New Zealander, currently on a sabbatical from his position as Wales' head coach, has made a formal request to a selection of players from the Home Unions to not 'harm, hurt, obstruct or otherwise hinder' each other during the last two games of the championship as well as for the rest of the domestic season.
It is believed around forty players in line for selection for the summer tour to Australia have received a letter from the Lions management asking them to refrain from 'excessive physical contact' with other players also earmarked for possible selection for the 2013 Lions.
"We are requesting that players who we hope will be playing this June and July to make a pact with each other," said Gatland. "We hope they won't tackle each other, for example, or clear each other out forcefully at rucks. Basically, anything that could cause injury we want to avoid. For instance, we don't want Dan Cole running full speed at Ryan Jones. Or, heaven forbid, Danny Care running aggressively into Mike Phillips."
The Lions management admit the strategy is unusual and without precedent in the game's long history, but believe it can play a key part in helping the Lions win a first series in 16 years.
"In a couple of months we are going to be swapping blows with one of the most dangerous teams in the world," said Gatland. "All this happens pretty soon. And we ain't ready. We need to step up and fight this team hard. Why would we want to damage our own chances by beating each other up? It's madness. I think our strategy, whilst unorthodox and likely to upset traditionalists, will become standard practice in years to come. I really believe this will be a turning point in Lions history."
Gatland has suggested that when two potential Lions players come face to face in an attacker and tackler situation they should compromise in the following manner:
Gatland denies such situations would make a mockery of the sport: "The Lions have not won a series since 1997 Do we want this run to end? Do we want to come home with a series victory? Then we must stop fighting amongst ourselves. We must face that the price for it may be dear. But I for one would rather win eternal glory as 2013 series winners than go down in flames like recent Lions teams."
Whilst 40 players have been informally asked to take part in what is being labelled as rugby's first ever non-aggression pact, a further 100 have also been asked to 'go easy' on Lions hopefuls. In perhaps one of the most optimistic actions in the history of sport, letters have also been sent to the French and Italian rugby unions in the hope they will also agree to 'go easy' on Lions hopefuls.
"We'd also like to encourage cross team arse patting," added Gatland. "So if the English scrum drives the Welsh scrum back ten yards and wins a penalty, we want players from both sides congratulating the English pack. So we'd ask the Welsh players to give a friendly, encouraging little pat on the backside to their brothers from across the border. Is that too much to ask, really? Isn't rugby one big family after all? What could be a nicer symbol of our joint aim for glory this summer? Imagine what the sight of such a thing would do to the Aussies. They would be terrified."
Other 'suggested' actions for situations when Lion players come face to face with other Lions players include:
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