Lions to call in reinforcements for midweek games

7:59 AM BST

ROTORUA, New Zealand — The British & Irish Lions will bring in reinforcements for their remaining midweek matches as they seek to protect the matchday squad for their three Test series against the All Blacks.

Warren Gatland is set to call up five or six players after the weekend’s international matches, with there likely to be a strong representation from Wales and Scotland due to the close proximity of their matches to New Zealand. Ireland players are also a possibility, but he is unlikely to turn to England as they are in Argentina.

Wales took on Tonga on Friday evening in Auckland, while Scotland tackle Australia on Saturday in Sydney. Ireland are a little further afield in Japan.

The Lions have two further midweek games. As he wraps his matchday 23 in cotton wool, the additional players will be drafted into the squads for the games against the Chiefs next week and the Hurricanes match taking place in between Tests one and two.

With the Lions party now at 40 players following Stuart Hogg’s injury, Gatland could look to run two 23-man squads. Steve Hansen suggested the possibility of it earlier in the week, and it is something Gatland mentioned back in September 2016.

“One thing that I spoke about in the interview process, was that the hardest game is the Chiefs game before the 1st Test,” Gatland said when unveiled as Lions coach. “How do you protect that Test match 23?

“You want to protect that Test 23. It made a massive difference in 2013, we had players on the bench, but not exposing the 15 to having to be involved.

“That is important. It’s getting the balance right, you don’t want the squad to be too big and unwieldy, how do you keep it small enough so everyone feels a part, feels like they have an opportunity, so you are not carrying two or three just for the sake of it.”

Gatland did similar in 2013 when he called in Shane Williams, Billy Twelvetrees, Brad Barritt and Christian Wade late in the tour.

Steve Borthwick was asked about the possibility of further reinforcements arriving on Friday, but straight-batted the question. “I think if there’s a situation where call-ups are going to happen for any player that will be deal with at the appropriate time when an announcement’s to be made,” said Borthwick. “And right now there’s no announcement.”

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