There's no denying that Warren Gatland has taken a massive gamble by calling up six players to join the Lions for the final few weeks of the tour.

He's risking the morale of the original squad, the value of the Lions jersey and perhaps even the previously unconditional support of the best fans in world rugby, all, in his view, to give the test team the best possible chance to win the test series.

Just as hard to deny is that Gatland is feeling the pressure about his decision. Pressured because in fairness to him, he's doing what he can to find a solution to a problem that was not of his own making.

He can't feel good about doing something that is not ideal for the team or for the Lions' brand, but is, in his view, the best of two bad options.


The Lions are here to win the test series - a point they have laboured since their arrival. Could they seriously believe that if they were asking a handful of test starters to back up on the bench this Tuesday against the Chiefs, that they would be giving themselves the best chance to topple the All Blacks at Eden Park?

Imagine how, say, Maro Itoje and Sean O'Brien would feel if they were forced into bench duty at Waikato Stadium knowing that up the road in Auckland, Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane had their feet up after a good day's training?

It would make a mockery of the Lions' test preparation so Gatland has said no - bring in more troops, split the squad into two groups and let the test team have preparation equal to that of the All Blacks.

The logic stacks up but the execution of this plan has been handled with the same sort of lack of finesse with which the Lions play.

Firstly, the Lions players had to hear about it first from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. And Hansen being Hansen, he managed to spin the story into a major negative. Gatland was left to fly into turbulent air as it were and when the big reveal did come, he sent himself into a nose dive.

With the exception of Scotland's Finn Russell, Gatland is bringing cannon fodder. Geographical convenience has determined his selections - picking as he has four Welshmen who are already in New Zealand and two Scots who are over the ditch in Australia.

These are men who were nowhere near making the Lions when the squad was originally picked but are now here, kitted out, part of the team and just as able to go home and say, legitimately, they are British Lions.

Calling up more cavalry is fine, but on Saturday, Gatland will ask 23 of Britain and Ireland's best players to play for a jersey that he has casually handed to five men who have categorically not earned the right to wear it.

The concepts of integrity and credibility are not intangible and now Gatland has lost his right to expect his players to empty their soul for the cause.

If the jersey really does mean everything, then why not bring over players who were, genuinely the next cabs off the rank? It would be a journey for the likes of England's Dylan Hartley and Joe Launchbury to get here from Argentina, but, really, so what?

Jet lag is a thing but it's not that big a thing. Fearing that genuine Lions' calibre players may be a bit sleepy isn't a reason to start picking second raters just because their body clocks are better adjusted to New Zealand time.

There are thousands of British fans here who, by the looks of them, have invested heavily in the Lions brand. They are good sorts, there through thick and thin and they too deserve to better: there support is unconditional on the basis that they are getting behind the best of the best.

Gatland knows the size of risk he has taken and like all gamblers he's going to be edgy until his bet is either cashed in or blows up.

His edginess saw him bite back at Hansen on Saturday night, trying to deflect the heat off himself and suggest that it is the All Blacks who are running scared.

It was said with so little conviction - as if he was trying to convince himself more than anyone else. The All Blacks aren't fearful of the Lions.

They are, however, deeply respectful and more than aware of the serious threat the Lions pose. The All Blacks are never anything else, it's why they win as much as they do, because they tend not to make the mistake of under estimating their opposition.

The new Lions:
Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis (all Wales)
Allan Dell and Finn Russell (Scotland)