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Door ajar for Kruis to play his way into Lions contention

Warren Gatland says it is not too late for George Kruis to force his way into Lions reckoning for this summer’s tour to New Zealand.

Usually those who miss  the entire Six Nations struggle to make the final cut, but Gatland has offered Kruis hope – along with Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw.

Saracens second row Kruis, 27, missed two of his country’s Autumn Tests with an ankle injury and then suffered a knee injury in the build-up to the Six Nations.

He is still set for a number of weeks on the sidelines, but Gatland said:  “The door is not shut on anybody as yet.

“Yes, the Six Nations is an important marker and it is good to see the match-ups between players from different countries in the same positions, but there is still time.

“There are a lot of big club games domestically and in Europe to come after the Six Nations. I would like to see some of those that have been missing like George Kruis and Greig Laidlaw (right) get some game time under their belts and see how they recover. “I am keeping an eye on how everyone’s fitness is progressing and will keep doing so.”

While Gatland is keen to see the return of Laidlaw he warns that a lack of Scottish representation in his coaching panel for the tour could count against Scots hopefuls of making the plane.

Gregor Townsend, the Glasgow Warriors’ head coach who will move to take up the main Scotland job in a few months, and current Scots’ backs coach Jason O’Halloran turned down the chance to be part of Gatland’s back room team.

Andy Farrell, the former England defence coach now in the same role with Ireland, Wales’ Rob Howley and England’s Steve Borthwick have instead taken up positions – and Gatland says a lack of a “Scottish voice” in selection meetings may count against some players.

Asked if he felt he knew enough about a lot of the Scottish players, Gatland responded:  “No. It would have made a hell of a difference if Gregor or Jason had been able to go on tour.

You want someone pushing players, and at the moment they [Scotland] haven’t really got that voice. It’s only an external view, from me or Steve Borthwick or Andy Farrell or Rob Howley.

“I spoke to Andy Irvine about it, and he said ‘would you ask one of the coaches to come along to a selection meeting, whether it’s Gregor, Jason or Vern Cotter?’ and I may well.

“I had a good chat to [Scotland team manager] Gavin Scott this week as well about players we’re looking it and what they’re like around the squad and as people.

“I chatted to Vern and potentially we might invite someone to come to a selection meeting to give a Scottish perspective.”

Options: Warren Gatland will name his Lions squad on 19 April (Photo by Getty Images)

Gatland admits the squad has to have the right balance between experience and youth and says Brian O’Driscoll has been in his ear.

“It’s a balance between players with form at the moment against players with some experience,” he said.

“It’s not just about picking your 15 or your 23. There’s a lot to be said for getting the right personalities who can gel together as a team. There will be one or two who are bit petulant, don’t handle being dropped – you don’t want too many of them to go. You want some characters involved.”

He adds: “I was at a dinner last week with Brian and he said something to me that was really interesting. Having toured New Zealand a lot with the Lions and with Ireland, he really doesn’t feel that it is a place to take inexperience.

“He said to me ‘you go to New Zealand with players who have been there, who have been around because it can be tough’. It was interesting to hear his point of view because he is a very experienced guy and I took that on board.”

GARY HEATLY

Warren Gatland was at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh to learn where Dr Tilo Kunath conducts research on a novel cell therapy – work funded by The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT).

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