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Lions reinforcements on way as Gatland set to announce 5 or 6 call-ups

Warren Gatland is set to bring in additional players for his midweek team.

Murray Kinsella reports from New Zealand

THE LIONS ARE set to bring a crop of reinforcements into their squad as they look to reduce the workload on their Test match 23.

Warren Gatland will confirm the names of five or six players following this weekend’s fixtures involving Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England.

Warren Gatland Gatland will look to bring in fresh faces. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Lions say this set of call-ups was always part of the plan, with Gatland understood to have discussed it with the four national team coaches.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen raised the prospect on Thursday, suggesting that Warren Gatland would call up a group of players in order to split his squad into a Test group and a midweek team to play against the Chiefs and Hurricanes.

But Gatland himself had stated all the way back in September – when he was confirmed as Lions boss - that something of this nature was a possibility.

“One thing that I spoke about in the interview process, the hardest game is the Chiefs game before the first Test,” said Gatland.

“How do you protect that Test match 23? I know Wales are in the Islands, Scotland are in Australia, England-Argentina and Ireland-Japan, so there is potentially an opportunity to maybe bring in four or five to sit on the bench.

“That is my thought process at the moment. You want to protect that Test 23. It made a massive difference in 2013, we had players on the bench, but not exposing the 15 to having to be involved. That is important.”

And Gatland will now remain true to his word about calling in a group of players to augment the Lions squad for that Chiefs game, which takes place in Hamilton on Tuesday.

Wales played Tonga in Auckland this morning, while Scotland face Australia in Sydney on Saturday, meaning they are likely to provide the bulk of the players added to the Lions squad. Ireland are in Japan, while England are touring Argentina.

Gatland originally named a squad of 41 players, which had appeared to cover most bases, but he is keen to ensure that none of those involved in next weekend’s first Test against the All Blacks are involved versus the Chiefs.

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