Gatland prepared to cast net far and wide
September 9, 2012
Wales boss Warren Gatland was confirmed as the Lions coach earlier this week © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed that he is prepared to look beyond the international stage for players to take to on tour to Hong Kong and Australia next summer.
Gatland, who was unveiled as the Lions' boss earlier this week, has hinted that outstanding club form could be enough to book a place on the plane Down Under with the likes of former England internationals Jonny Wilkinson and Mike Tindall on his radar.
Wilkinson's chances of making what would be his third tour appear remote with the culmination of the Top 14 season, where he stars for Toulon, set to clash with the Lions' first tour game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong. Tindall, who has not played for England since last year's Rugby World Cup, is currently a player/coach with Premiership side Gloucester.
"Everyone is in contention," said Gatland. "We are starting with a clean slate: no one is pencilled in. If you are playing well enough, whether it is Wilkinson or Tindall, you'll have a chance. In the past players have been selected out of club sides and done well.
"What will be reasonably important is that if they are not playing international rugby, they will have to come from a side that has done well at another level, such as the Heineken Cup. You need that comparison with Test rugby."
However, the end of year internationals and the Six Nations are still set to be key proving grounds with Gatland keen to survey all of his options. The Kiwi will not be involved in Wales' Six Nations campaign, with Rob Howley taking temporary charge of the side, and is hoping to get access to the other squads during the battle for northern hemisphere supremacy.
"I would like to go to sessions, particularly early in the week," said Gatland. "I am conscious that with England playing Wales in the last week of the Six Nations, they are probably not going to be keen on me coming in. I think we have been too insular in the northern hemisphere and not shared enough information.
"We had a number of Welsh staff on the last Lions tour and we gave away a lot of intellectual property. That is part of the role of the Lions in terms of sharing ideas. The big challenge is beating the southern hemisphere. It is great to win the Six Nations and the grand slam, but that is not good enough until we start beating the southern hemisphere. We are not far away, but we have to be more willing to share ideas. I am more than happy to be open."
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