British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland warns top players will miss NZ tour

Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins (right) was one of Warren Gatland's assistants on the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2013

Warren Gatland has warned that top-class players will miss out on touring New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions this summer.

The Lions head coach says it will be a much tougher selection meeting than the one he had before guiding the Lions to a 2-1 series win against Australia in 2013.

The tour party and captain will be named on 19 April.

"It's much harder in a positive way," Gatland told BBC Wales Sport.

"There are going to be some real quality players that are going to miss out.

"It's a nice position to be in. It's not always the way you want it with good players missing out on going on tour. But I am excited about the potential we have at the moment."

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Gatland hinted that the final round of Six Nations matches would be an important factor in his selection.

Champions England are looking for a second successive Grand Slam against Ireland in Dublin, while Wales travel to face France in Paris, and Scotland host Italy.

"It's about people fronting up under pressure to perform when it really matters," added Gatland.

"There are a lot of English players who have done well.

"There is an expectation on England, and Ireland are going to make it extremely difficult. I would not be surprised if Ireland won this weekend.

"Wales needed to front up last weekend against Ireland. Now the Irish are in the same boat this weekend.

"Scotland will have two home wins but would have been very disappointed with their performance against England. It will be interesting to see how they back that up with a performance under pressure against Italy."

World Cup worries

Gatland and Warburton
Gatland, pictured with then captain Sam Warburton, led Wales to the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup, where they were knocked out by South Africa

Gatland is currently on a season-long sabbatical from his job as Wales head coach but knows the game against France could be crucial for the 2019 World Cup draw, which will be made in Kyoto, Japan on 10 May.

Wales will replace Ireland in fourth place in the world rankings and secure a spot in the top pot of seeds in Japan if they defeat France in Paris and England win in Dublin.

"Wales go to Paris with a massive incentive with the World Cup draw looming," added Gatland. "I will be very interested to see how the draw pans out for the next couple of years."

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