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Lions Tour 2013: The only man laughing at Gatland's gaffes is Brian O'Driscoll

What I really meant was... Warren Gatland tries to talk his way out of trouble with Stuart Lancaster

"You just hope Gatland reflects on all he's said this week and picks his words more carefully in future - otherwise it will be him and not the England players who will be bringing extra baggage to the trip."

Lions coach Warren Gatland has stirred up a hornet's nest by letting slip some of his thoughts about selection. Ralph Ellis says he needs to engage his brain before opening his mouth the next time... 

At the time, it seemed as though Warren Gatland had made a good call by giving himself a sabbatical from his job as Wales Head Coach during the Six Nations. In hindsight he might have been better off if he'd carried on working.

The former All Blacks hooker has clearly got too much time on his hands. He's given a series of different interviews and so far is just talking himself into trouble. It started on Monday when he spoke out loud to the London Evening Standard his fears that having too many Englishmen in his Lions squad this summer might bring some off the field baggage. What's worse he mentioned the shambles of the 2011 World Cup.

So 24 hours later he was finding himself at a pre-arranged date to watch an England training session, eating humble pie with his coffee, and asking Stuart Lancaster if he wouldn't mind getting an informal message to the players that he didn't mean it really.

"I would happily pick 15 Englishmen for the first game if it was the best side," was his message. Too late, the damage has been done, and now whatever squad he names in May will be subject to scrutiny to see if there was bias one way or the other.

Meanwhile the Aussies haven't been slow to see the chance to unsettle their forthcoming opponents. David Campese was the first to spot a crack in the potential unity of the touring squad and try to open it up.

"He's right," said the legendary former Wallabies star. "The relationship between Australia and the Poms is as it has always been. Mate, everyone hates the Poms!"

As if that wasn't bad enough, Gatland then talked to the Daily Telegraph about Sam Warburton's chances of being included. The last time I looked, Warburton wasn't English but Welsh, so on the basis of interview number one seemed to have every chance of being Lions captain ahead of Chris Robshaw. But no. It appears that the Kiwi is now giving the warning that the flanker's continued absence from Wales starting line-up "could have a significant bearing" on his chances of going to Australia in the summer.

Thanks for that one, too.  For a man who said he wouldn't interfere in the running of the Welsh team, Gatland has just sent a big, loud message to stand-in coach Rob Howley that he needs to put Warburton back in his side sharpish.

Now it's always possible Gatland has been influenced by his brief appearance as himself last year in the Sky comedy drama Stella, and is having a bit of fun. But the only person laughing must be Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll who has shortened to 1.75/7 favourite to be Lions captain, presumably on the basis that he is neither English nor Welsh.

The reality seems to be that Gatland, forwards coach on the last Lions tour, simply hasn't understood the measure of media scrutiny that comes when you take the top job. You just hope he reflects on all he's said this week and picks his words more carefully in future - otherwise it will be him and not the England players who will be bringing extra baggage to the trip.

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14 February 2013

British Lions

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