up to speed

Murray, Stander, POM at 'slight disadvantage' for Lions, says Gatland

While key players from Leinster and Saracens are now in camp, the Munster trio remain on Pro12 duty.

WHILE THE LIKES of Johnny Sexton, Owen Farrell, Robbie Henshaw and Maro Itoje are now into their second training day of Lions camp at Carton House, the Munster trio of Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Conor Murray remain on the outside.

The Munster men have a Guinness Pro12 final to prepare for this weekend and their only involvement with the Lions so far has been ‘Messy Monday’ two weeks ago, an administrative day when gear was collected, photos were taken and various forms were signed.

Stuart Hogg, Mako Vunipola and Conor Murray Conor Murray [front right] at the Lions' Messy Monday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Lions head coach Warren Gatland brought the 14 players he had available into camp last week and the defeats for Leinster and Saracens in their Pro12 and Premiership play-offs last weekend mean his squad has swollen again this week to 30.

Already he has found himself going back over things that were covered last week and he said that players coming into camp late from Munster, Scarlets, Wasps, Northampton and Exeter would be at a disadvantage.

“We won’t have time next week when the final group of players actually come in to go over some stuff,” said Gatland yesterday at Carton House, where the Lions have based themselves this week. “This week is a little bit of repetition.

We had 14 players last week, so that fact we’ve almost doubled the size of the squad this week, there is a bit of repetition of some of the stuff that we’d covered last week.

“And I think that’s important, its good for the guys that worked on certain things last weekend, but when they come in next Sunday we won’t be able to again go over the same sort of things that we’ve spent a couple of weeks doing with the squad.

“And its going to put those players coming in next weekend at a slight disadvantage because they’re going to have to pretty much school themselves or work with the coaches one-on-one and look at the training videos to get up to speed as quick as they can.”

Of course, Murray, Stander and O’Mahony will back themselves to get through that video work voraciously and bring their Lions game plan knowledge up to speed in days, but it won’t have been too encouraging to hear Gatland say they are at a slight disadvantage.

Peter O’Mahony O'Mahony remains on Munster duty. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

A Pro12 final is huge for Munster and that will hold the trio’s focus, but they must wonder in the back of their heads how their rivals are doing in Lions camp this week.

The defeats for Leinster and Saracens last weekend couldn’t have worked out better for the Lions, given that both clubs have large contingents in the Lions squad.

With Sexton, Farrell and the Ospreys’ Dan Biggar now all in camp, Gatland admitted that he wasn’t too displeased with how the weekend had gone.

Well, we’ve gone from having no 10s last week to having all three 10s this week, so that’s such a pivotal position and having those guys here as decision makers and leaders is quite significant and important,” said Gatland.

“To have Johnny, Dan and Owen here this week, hopefully it’s going to help us be up to speed a little quicker than we expected.

“We may have had one after the weekend but to have three of them is a big bonus.

“From a purely selfish point of view, it’s worked out OK for us in terms of the players that have come in.”

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