Warren Gatland: Lions warm-up selection is about not losing half the team on day one

 
Joe Hall
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Gatland: Players must keep themselves in shop window (Source: Getty)

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland is aiming not to repeat the mistake made by compatriot Graham Henry who he said “lost half the team on day one” by making it obvious who was in his Test XV.

The Lions’ tour of New Zealand begins with a warm-up against NZ Provincial Barbarians on Saturday and Gatland has left a number of big names out of his side by largely sticking to players not involved in domestic end-of-season play-offs.

Gatland cited Henry who, when in charge of the Lions’ 2001 tour of Australia, supposedly made it obvious who his preferred players were.

Read more: British and Irish Lions in for a rude awakening

"Obviously the whole focus is on the Test matches, but having been involved in 2013 and having spoken to people in the past, it's about giving everyone an opportunity and keeping harmony in the squad," said Gatland.

"That's paramount for these guys at the moment. I know the guys who were involved with Graham Henry in 2001 - he lost half the team on day one because he went 'you guys over here, and you guys over there' and the players knew straight away, 'well, that's the Test side and we're just making up the numbers'.

"I think it's important that these guys are putting themselves in the shop window, that they've got a chance to prove themselves and with a little bit of luck they're in contention for the Test."

Captain Sam Warburton has downplayed the importance of getting off to a winning start on Saturday, describing the warm-up games as an opportunity for an unfamiliar squad to develop its identity.

“Ideally we’d love to win each of those games but so long as we are getting better and better after each fixture then that’s good,” he said.

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