Warren Gatland says England players bring extra 'pressure'
'English players are targeted by other countries'
Warren Gatland may restrict the number of England players he includes in his Lions squad to tour Australia this summer because he feels it would put too much pressure on the team.
The Lions coach said that English players have historically not always been popular with those from other countries and are more likely to attract damaging media attention.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Gatland acknowledges the excellent current form of Stuart Lancaster's team and says he is likely to select a "reasonable contingent" of English players, though he adds: "But that brings a certain element of – how do I say it – other pressures that come with selecting a lot of English players. It becomes a much greater media focus from the English papers; potentially a negative focus from the Australian papers.
"And English players are targeted by other countries. [They are] not always the most popular with other countries because of the history. People like having a pop at them."
Gatland is mindful of England's off-field problems at the 2011 World Cup in his native New Zealand, including the infamous boozy dwarf-throwing evening, and the attention English players attract. While insisting that "the best players will be selected", the coach added: "We all know what happened with England at the World Cup and the circus that was created.
"I've just got to be aware of the possibilities that, if there are a number of English players on the tour, the same sort of things could be instigated, through stings through the media or set-ups trying to create controversy."
He said it was important his players understood where the boundaries were: "These are young men filled up with a lot of testosterone and sometimes they need to go out and just unwind. But it's essential these players know what their boundaries are.
"The way I work, it's not a dictatorship, it's a consultation with the other coaches and senior players or the captain."