Gatland keeping an open mind over Lions squad


He was replaced after 55 minutes against France and lasted just 46 minutes against Wales but Gatland thinks two weeks off from rugby will help him get up to speed ahead of England's game against Italy on Sunday week.

Hartley is still short of game time following a six-week suspension for a high tackle on Leinster's Sean O'Brien before Christmas and Johnson is convinced the Northampton hooker will only improve as the tournament goes on.

A British & Irish Lions branded Land Rover vehicle was also unveiled at the Whitton Lions RFC event and will be used to tour the United Kingdom and Ireland to recruit entrants for Land Rover's competition to win a trip to the first Test in New Zealand.

The Lions play three Tests, the five Super Rugby franchises, the Maori All Blacks and the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on their tour.

"But certainly on the form of the first two games he is looking very sharp and I believe without a doubt he will be on the plane to New Zealand so that's good from a Scottish point of view but equally from a Lions point of view as well".

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"He's been outstanding in the first couple of games in the way that he's competed (at the break-down) and brought physicality", said Gatland.

Asked to name just one player who had impressed him in the past fortnight, he settled on Stuart Hogg.

'Dylan will be welcoming Jamie George playing well, what's the alternative Jamie George not playing well.

New Zealand Rugby says 75 percent of the tickets for the ten game tour have been sold. But I think for now they'll keep it how it is and rightly so'.

The wily New Zealander is unsurprisingly keeping his cards close to his chest over selection after two rounds of the Six Nations. They defeated Wales 16-22 to stretch their winning run to 16 games.

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Jones is now being talked up to captain the Lions during this summer's tour to New Zealand and having also travelled to South Africa in 2009, knows the nature of the beast as well as anyone. "I'm not so sure an England team of the past were able to do that".

Warburton has been playing at blind-side flanker alongside Justin Tipuric.

'He is in with a shout for the Lions, if you are captain of your team and winning games - he is in with a shout. I felt bad for the Welsh boys because there was a period of 15 minutes to go where they had England rattled and under a bit of pressure and they had a pretty critical line-out which was turned over.

Second-row forward Jones only recently became Wales captain in succession to Sam Warburton but captained the Lions in the decisive and victorious third Test against Australia four years ago when Warburton was out injured.

"I though Ali Price did well last week when he came on and he is a slightly different player to Greig and we will just have to make the most of it as it's just the way it is".

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