06252017

Gatland set to call up at least five new players to join Lions

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland (right) and backs coach Rob Howley

The British and Irish Lions have won two of the first four games on the tour to New Zealand

Warren Gatland is set to call up at least five players to bolster his British and Irish Lions squad before the first Test against New Zealand.

The Lions face Maori All Blacks on Saturday (08:35 BST) and the Chiefs on Tuesday, before the first Test against the All Blacks in Auckland on 24 June.

Head coach Gatland wants the extra players to ensure that none of the Test squad have to play twice in a week.

The players may well come from Wales and Scotland, who are in Australasia.

Wales are currently in Auckland having beaten Tonga 24-6 on Friday, with Scotland in Sydney to face Australia on Saturday.

England would have several strong candidates to be drafted in, but Eddie Jones’ squad is preparing for the second Test in Argentina, which is in a different time zone and may count against them.

Gatland mentioned calling up new players as a possibility last year, and the Lions say it was always part of the tour’s planning.

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Wales interim head coach Robin McBryde, speaking after the win over Tonga, said he was willing to help out the man he is filling in for.

“We weren’t short-sighted enough to think we would come all the way to the other side of the world and not support the Lions if the call comes,” he said.

“If we can support them then we’ll help them out, but I don’t know what Warren is going to do.”

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell is likely to be a candidate to be called up with Owen Farrell injured and facing a race to be fit for the first Test a week on Saturday.

His compatriot Jonny Gray is another player likely to be considered by Gatland with doubts over the fitness of England lock Courtney Lawes, who was injured in Tuesday’s defeat by the Highlanders.

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