An awkward squad meeting! Lions coach Gatland sees England players just a day after saying he is reluctant to pick them
12:38 GMT, 13 February 2013
15:53 GMT, 13 February 2013
Warren Gatland has met with the England squad just a day after his comments regarding selection for the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia caused a storm.
The Lions and Wales head coach was with Stuart Lancaster's side at St George's Park for a pre-scheduled meeting on Wednesday just three months ahead of the trip to Australia.
Gatland, who has handed over the reins of the Wales side to his assistant Rob Howley for the ongoing RBS Six Nations Championship while he focuses on his Lions role, told the London Evening Standard on Tuesday that he was reluctant to pick too many Englishmen in his squad.
Causing a storm: Gatland said he is reluctant to pick too many Englishmen
The New Zealander was at the National Football Centre in Burton to go through video footage of England's 12-6 win over Ireland on Sunday – a result which has left Lancaster's side top of the Six Nations table after two games.
‘England did well in the autumn,’ the Kiwi told the Standard. ‘And if they do well in the Six Nations, there will be a reasonable contingent of English players.
‘But that brings a certain element of – how do I say it – other pressures. We all know what happened with England at the World Cup and the circus that was created.
On a roll: England have won both of their Six Nations games so far
‘It becomes a much greater media focus for the English papers; potentially a negative focus for the Australian papers. And English players are targeted by other countries. They are not always the most popular with other countries because of the history. People like having a pop at them.
‘It’s just being aware of potential issues that may arise. I’ve got to be aware of the possibilities that, if there are a number of English players on the tour, the same sort of things could be instigated, through stings through the media or set-ups trying to create controversy.’
Gatland later insisted that his words were taken out of context.
Backtracking: The Kiwi later insisted his words had been taken out of context
‘I would happily pick 15 English players in the first Test at Brisbane if I though they were the best 15 players for the job,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
‘Hand on heart I would never be able to look myself in the mirror if we didn’t pick a player who deserved to go on Tour because he was English. I just couldn’t do that to any individual. Morally it is just wrong.’