Warren Gatland warns Premiership players they risk Lions snub

  • Dispute with Premiership Rugby over player release grows
  • Poor form could also count against England players says Gatland

Warren Gatland has warned that British & Irish Lions hopefuls based in England face the prospect of missing out on the South Africa tour unless Premiership Rugby softens its stance in an escalating disagreement over player release. In a further blow to Eddie Jones’s England players, Gatland has said that their poor Six Nations form could also count against them.

The Lions are due to face Japan in a warm-up Test at Murrayfield on 26 June – the same day as the Premiership final and a week before their first tour match in South Africa. Gatland accepts those players involved in the Premiership final will not be available but he fears all English clubs will refuse to release their stars for the Japan fixture because it falls outside the official Test window – even those whose seasons have already finished.

Related: Premiership Rugby plans midweek fixture shift in effort to bring back fans

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Scotland’s Steve Tandy lined up for Gatland’s Lions coaching staff

  • Defence coach leading candidate for South Africa tour
  • Gregor Townsend expected to be attack coach

Scotland’s defensive mastermind Steve Tandy has emerged as a leading candidate to join the British & Irish Lions coaching staff with Warren Gatland forced into a late rethink for the tour to South Africa.

Tandy would be charged with overseeing the Lions defence on the tour of South Africa with the Ireland head coach, Andy Farrell, now believed to be unavailable. Gregor Townsend is still expected to be named as attack coach when Gatland confirms his assistants on Tuesday, however, and after multiple tours with no Scotland representatives on the staff Tandy would mean another for the South Africa trip.

Related: Sale’s Manu Tuilagi set for return from injury in May in boost to his Lions hopes

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‘Life is full of adversity’: Jason Leonard enjoying Lions role despite pandemic

  • ‘It’s typical rugby – you get knocked down,’ says chairman
  • Details of June tour to South Africa remain ‘fluid’, adds Leonard

While his job with the British & Irish Lions could scarcely be further removed from what he envisaged upon his appointment, Jason Leonard says he remains happy to roll with the Covid-related punches despite the uncertainty surrounding this summer’s scheduled tour to South Africa.

Three times a tourist as a player, the former England prop was announced as chairman of the party to visit the home of the world champions 20 months ago, long before coronavirus had unleashed itself on an unsuspecting world.

Related: Jason Leonard still hopeful South Africa will admit British & Irish Lions fans

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South Africa’s rugby chief backs plans for fans to return for Lions Tests

  • Local Olympic committee’s move is important development
  • ‘Even if behind closed doors the tour will go ahead’

The South Africa Rugby president, Mark Alexander, believes proposals being presented to the country’s government next week make “a strong case for a safe and sustainable return of supporters”.

The British & Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa is scheduled for July and August, highlighted by three Tests against the world champions and the move by South Africa’s National Olympic Committee is potentially an encouraging development for Lions supporters hoping to travel.

Related: World Rugby to trial eye-tracking technology in fight against concussion

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