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Gatland responds to criticism of Cowan-Dickie's Lions selection

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Lions boss Warren Gatland has defended his selection of Luke Cowan-Dickie as a replacement for Saturday’s game versus the Sigma Lions in Johannesburg just a week after the England hooker was concussed during Exeter’s Gallagher Premiership final defeat last weekend.


It was Thursday, just five days after the concussion, that Cowan-Dickie was selected by Gatland to wear the No16 jersey for the Lions’ first match on South African soil.

When asked about the player’s state of mind at that day’s media conference, he said: “When I first asked him how he was he said he had never had a knock like that before, so he has done all the return to play protocols and he is happy to take a part in training and is another real competitor.”

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Cheslin Kolbe and Jamie Roberts guest on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Cheslin Kolbe and Jamie Roberts guest on the latest RugbyPass Offload

That reasoning sparked controversy, though, about the player who painfully got his head the wrong side of a Premiership final tackle. Ex-England scrum-half Kyran Bracken led the charge, tweeting: “Luke is unconscious for over 20 seconds. Possibly 40-60 secs. How can he play the following week? I am absolutely disgusted that the powers that be allow this to happen. A stain on our great game.”

Concussion awareness group Progressive Rugby also tweeted: “How on earth is Luke Cowan-Dickie on the Lions team sheet just 5 days after this? Cowan-Dickie will have to undergo stringent return to play protocols and will not be able to progress to full training until he passes series of tests.”

Gatland, though, defended his selection of the 28-year-old in a pitch-side pre-game TV interview on Saturday in Johannesburg. Asked by Sky Sports if the concussion protocols had been assiduously followed in declaring Cowan-Dickie fit to provide cover at hooker for Jamie George, the coach replied: “Yeah, absolutely. I take full advice from the medical team and whatever they say goes as far as I am concerned so he has been through all his protocols and we feel like we have been over and above with those protocols with him. 


“We have had an independent consultant, a world-leading expert, have a look at it and he has given the all-clear as well. As far as I am concerned we have followed everything and the medical team have given him the all-clear. He is fit and good to go.”


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