Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has accused British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland of being ‘disingenuous’ over release of players.
Representatives from the Lions and the Premiership held talks on Tuesday, but Baxter believes there is a degree of smoke and mirrors within Gatland’s threat.
“[The Lions] have known there is no way to cut our season short,” said Baxter to The Telegraph. “Is there a spare weekend for us to move the Premiership forward? Of course there is not. Everyone has been aware of that and everyone has known when the Premiership season is going to finish.
|So, for the Lions to turn around now and say that [not picking Premiership-based players] is a scenario is a little bit disingenuous of them, because they have known our fixture list for a long time.
“I have got every confidence that Warren Gatland will pick the team that he feels will do the job for him – because that’s the kind of coach he is. If there was a player in the Premiership final who Gatland thought was an important player in his squad, then I don’t think he would leave them out, because I wouldn’t.
“If I am Warren Gatland watching guys play outstandingly well in Premiership semi-finals and finals, do I decide I don’t want them to be part of the Lions tour because they have missed a week’s training? It is not like they will need game time.
“Will it potentially be an excuse to leave out a fringe player? Possibly. But I don’t think it will be based on availability – it will be based on playing performance. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it has not been created by the Premiership.”
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LIST | Rob Baxter’s 4 Worst Signings of All-Time
1. Niko Matawalu
The Fijian magician came down to Chiefs from Bath with huge expectations after impressing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. However, off-the-field problems meant the scrum-half/wing only ever played for Exeter Braves, once in December 2016, without graduating to the first team.