Gatland casts doubt on Robshaw's Lions hopes
November 29, 2012
Could Chris Robshaw's Lions hope be hampered by the style of rugby played in the Premiership? © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has hinted that England's Chris Robshaw is playing catch when it comes to earning a place on next summer's tour to Australia.
Gatland's has spent much of the autumn internationals casting an eye over his options for the Lions' eagerly-anticipated trip Down Under but also the Wallabies themselves and their glut of gifted opensides in the form of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Liam Gill has made a significant impression and perhaps dented Robshaw's tour hopes.
Speaking at the adidas launch of the new Lions shirt for the 2013 tour in Cardiff, Gatland told PA Sport: "You need genuine sevens going to Australia. You need sevens who are competing hard on the ball and being effective. It's not just about Pocock - there is Hooper and Gill as well. They are three quality sevens."
Gatlad's assessment would suggest the Wales captain Sam Warbuton is leading the race to lay claim to the Lions' No.7 shirt ahead of Robshaw and Ireland's Sean O'Brien who are considered converted blindsides. And despite his success on the domestic stage, Gatland feeels that Robshaw is not helped by the style of rugby played in the Premiership.
He said: "I feel sometimes England have struggled for a genuine seven and Chris has been doing that role. People speak very strongly of his leadership qualities and he has come out of Harlequins who have done so well domestically.
"The hard thing is the way the game is played and refereed in the English Premiership, it is dominantly refereed towards the attacking side which often makes it difficult for genuine sevens to get into the game so you can go in there with six-and-a-halves or sixes (in the number seven shirt)."
Gatland returned to the Wales hotseat for their recent defeat at the hands of New Zealand and he will be in charge once again for Australia's visit to Cardiff on Saturday.
Reflecting on Warburton's showing against All Blacks flanker Richie McCaw - widely regarded as the best openside in the game, Gatland said: "I was pleased last week with Sam. He had been under a bit of criticism and I thought he was outstanding against the All Blacks. I thought he carried strongly in the second half.
"I spoke to Sam after the game and told him, "I thought you did a really good job on McCaw". He said, "I didn't feel McCaw was a real threat at the breakdown. He was just a real nuisance in terms of slowing down the game, how quickly he gets back to his feet".
'He said (David) Pocock is a different animal - he floats around the back, sees an opportunity and competes really hard on the ball. That was a pleasing conversation - Sam identified the difference in sevens he was playing against.'
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