British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland defends extra call-ups

Wales quartet Gareth Davies, Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis
Wales quartet Gareth Davies, Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis have joined up with the Lions
Chiefs v British and Irish Lions
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton Date: Tuesday, 20 June Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Lions coach Warren Gatland has defended calling up six Wales and Scotland players for logistical reasons - but accepts it could devalue the shirt.

Those sides are touring Australasia, while England are in Argentina.

England coach Eddie Jones said call-ups to the New Zealand tour should be on "merit" not "geographical proximity".

Gatland said he could "see some people's point", but added: "My job is to win a Test series and I will do whatever it takes to do that."

The Lions beat the Maori All Blacks 32-10 on Saturday and face the Chiefs on Tuesday before the first Test against New Zealand in Auckland on 24 June, and Gatland wanted extra players to ensure none of the Test squad have to play twice in a week.

Welsh quartet Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies were called up after featuring in Wales' 24-6 victory over Tonga in Auckland on Friday.

Scotland prop Allan Dell and fly-half Finn Russell were then added to the Lions squad following Scotland's 24-19 defeat of Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

A number of former Lions have criticised Gatland's move, with three-time tourist Donal Lenihan telling BBC Radio 5 live it "impacts on the ethos of being a Lion".

In terms of travel and logistics, Jones had also said Argentina is only a "13-hour trip" from New Zealand.

"I'll let Eddie do his own talking, he can do plenty of it," Gatland said after Saturday's win in Rotorua. "I just understand how difficult it is to do that travel from Argentina.

"In terms of devaluing the shirt, I can see some people's point on that - but we're here to win a Test series and it's those guys covering from Auckland, not travelling halfway around the world.

"Bringing in these players from an identical time zone - who can hit the ground running and step straight in rather than having to adjust following long-haul travel - will help us manage players before the first Test, give us quality training numbers to prepare properly, as well as offering us options for selection for the Chiefs match.

"These guys will be with us for a week and they are for bench cover. They understand that's the way it is."

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