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Gatland vows not to limit English players for Lions

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says he will pick the best team

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Article Published: Thursday 14 February 2013|

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has denied suggestions that the nationality of a player will sway his decision of whether of not to pick him for the Lions tour.

Gatland said yesterday that if he selected a large number of English players for this year's Lions tour to Australia it would bring "pressures" on the squad and create negative press for the tour.

Gatland's initial comments created a backlash from English Rugby fans as they currently lead the Six Nations and are the only unbeaten team.

While Gatland's earlier statements appeared to be Anti-English he did say that there would be a "reasonable England contingent" but added that it brought "a certain element of - how do I say it - other pressures that come with selecting a lot of English players."

However Gatland has defended himself and says that he would "happily select 15 English players for the first Test in Brisbane" if they were the best players for the Lions.

"I am extremely disappointed that anybody should try to misinterpret what I said and try to say that will count against English players, that's absolute b-------," Gatland told Telegraph Sport.

"The last thing I would ever do is limit the number of English players. There is absolutely no limit to the number of any players from any nation we will pick if they are worthy of a place on the tour. "

"And I would happily pick 15 English players in the first Test at Brisbane if I thought they were the best 15 players for the job.

"The only consideration for a Lions coach is to get the best 15 on the park to do the job. That's paramount, I'm not remotely bothered which country they come from. "

"When I first started at Wales I remember I once picked 13 Ospreys for one of my early Tests in charge."

Gatland said that "hand on heart I would never be able to look myself in the mirror if we didn't pick a player who deserved to go on Tour because he was English."

"I just couldn't do that to any individual. Morally it is just wrong," he added.

After Gatland's initial comments came out RFU chairman Bill Beaumont defended English players and reminded the New Zealander of the change in culture that has been brought in by coach Stuart Lancaster and said that it would extend to any English player picked by the Lions.

"English players have always represented the Lions with enormous pride," Beaumont said.

"Wearing the Lions shirt, whether captain or player, is something that all English players take very seriously. This will undoubtedly continue for those that get picked this time.

"It is well documented the strong culture and sense of responsibility on and off the pitch that this England team possesses. "

"Those fortunate enough to get picked will of course take those attributes down under."

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