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'Someone has betrayed someone's trust': Lions leak upsets Gatland

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

Lions boss Warren Gatland has expressed his anger at having his first Test XV leaked to the media on Tuesday, insisting he will now change how he goes about his announcement for next week’s second Test in South Africa. Gatland had told his squad his first Test matchday 23 prior to afternoon training on Tuesday at a school in Cape Town and it wasn’t long before the Lions team leaked out.


The Times newspaper in London soon unveiled what the expected matchday 23 was and ultimately they were proven right regarding the starting XV, that the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Courtney Lawes, Jack Conan, Ali Price and Elliot Daly would all be starting against the Springboks, and that Conor Murray, who stepped in as tour captain when it was thought for three weeks that Alun Wyn Jones would miss the entire trip, would only be a first Test replacement along with England skipper Owen Farrell.

The only inaccuracy in the leak was that the predicted six/two forwards/backs bench split didn’t materialise as Gatland instead went with a five/three split with Liam Williams, not forward Iain Henderson, making the bench after recovering from the concussion he suffered in last week’s midweek loss to South Africa A.

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Anthony Watson on the importance of a fast start versus the Springboks
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Anthony Watson on the importance of a fast start versus the Springboks

“I don’t know how that happened,” said a disappointed Gatland when asked how his team has gotten into the public domain earlier than planned. “It wasn’t 100 per cent right but obviously someone has leaked that out.

“Whether that is on purpose or accidentally or someone has betrayed someone’s trust, whether that is player or a staff member – what I will do next week is just name the team to the players and then name the team to the press straight away.”

The Lions boss, who learned on Tuesday that all three Tests would be played at sea level in Cape Town and that the tour wouldn’t be returning to altitude for Tests two and three in Johannesburg, was originally due to name his team on Thursday morning but decided to bring it forward by 24 hours not long about the Times had published its leak.   


Gatland’s starting XV consists of six English players with three each coming from Ireland, Scotland and Wales – including fit-again skipper Jones – and he explained how tough it was to reach a consensus on who should play. “It was a robust debate,” he said. “We were an hour-and-a-half in the selection meeting. 

“I asked the other coaches to come along with their 23s and we were all different and I can say we all had to compromise in terms of that and debate positions and selections and that is the way it should be. 

“A lot of people think it is the team that I select but it has never been that way whether with Wales or the Lions. It’s important that as coaches we all have an input and it’s the way that I have always done things. Not one of the coaches had the 23 they came along to the meeting with.”



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