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ROBUST DEBATE: Gatland faces tough Lions selection decisions

Warren Gatland is ready for some “robust debate” with his coaching lieutenants as they finalise the British and Irish Lions team to face South Africa in Saturday’s first Test.

The Lions have completed their warm-up programme after sweeping aside the Stormers 49-3 at Cape Town Stadium and the selection process for the series has now begun.

Apart from Maro Itoje, Tadhg Furlong and Josh Adams there are few certainties, with players previously thought of as fringe contenders, such as Ali Price and Chris Harris, arguing compelling cases for inclusion.

Gatland has revealed that the composition of the Lions back row and back three will be the biggest topics of discussion.

“I’ve started to get some names in my head and started thinking about combinations. We’re getting closer and we’ll sit down and have a look at the Stormers game and talk to the medics about all the players,” Gatland said.

“From a fitness perspective we’re pretty good, so we’ll start thinking about getting those combinations together. That’s in the next 48 or 72 hours when we’ll go through that process. There will be some robust debate, I would presume.

“I don’t go in with preconceived ideas. I try to let that develop and allow the players to have that opportunity to put their hands up.

“Sometimes it’s about looking at the players and their numbers and the stats and sometimes it’s about having a gut feeling about certain players and combinations.

“And that process will really take place, even though I’ve already started to think about it, over the next couple of days.

“There are going to be some tight calls with regard to the make-up of the back three. Also the loose forwards and how that mix is going to look.

“They’re probably the tightest calls that we’ve got to make in terms of getting the balance right in those positions.

“But we’ll go through everyone and look at the starting XV. And it’s important that we consider the impact the bench will have as well.”

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