Lions tour: Alan Quinlan slams Warren Gatland's call-ups: 'I would've swum to NZ'

Warren Gatland's call-ups will likely be facing the Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday.
DAVID ROGERS/GETTY IMAGES

Warren Gatland's call-ups will likely be facing the Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday.

Former Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan said he "would have swum to New Zealand" to represent the Lions in light of Warren Gatland's controversial call-ups during the tour.

Quinlan was selected for the Lions in 2009 but missed the tour to South Africa because of a ban for making contact with the eye area of an opponent in a European club game.

England coach Eddie Jones led the criticism of Gatland for calling up four Welsh and two Scottish players as cover based on practicality, while several former Lions players condemned the move because it "devalues the jersey".

Welsh halfback Gareth Davies is one of Gatland's six called up on Saturday.
GETTY IMAGES

Welsh halfback Gareth Davies is one of Gatland's six called up on Saturday.

Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan said it was "difficult to justify geography" and that wouldn't have prevented Quinlan from travelling to New Zealand from Japan if he still played in green, having retired back in 2011.

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Ireland beat the Brave Blossoms 50-22 in Tokyo last weekend, while England clinched a series victory in Argentina after winning 35-25 in Santa Fe.

Chat live with Mark Reason about the Lions tour from midday on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Quinlan said playing for the Lions "was the ultimate accolade" and that Gatland had devalued the famous concept.

"There is no doubt that Warren Gatland's decision has dented the ethos surrounding the Lions," he wrote in the Irish Independent.

"When I first heard about it, I was very surprised. If this was part of Gatland's plan all along, then I think it should have been publicly flagged from the outset.

Scottish first-five Finn Russell is has also been called in to the Lions squad.
GETTY IMAGES

Scottish first-five Finn Russell is has also been called in to the Lions squad.

"It's not these guys' fault they got called up, they were hardly going to turn down the chance to play for the Lions but I know if I was an Irish player in Japan, I would've swum to New Zealand, if it meant I got the chance to play a minute for the Lions."

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The Welsh quartet of Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis were called up after Wales beat Tonga 24-6 at Eden Park on Friday, while Scots Allan Dell and Finn Russell were added after Scotland stunned Australia with a 24-19 victory in Sydney on Saturday.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt defended Gatland, saying the call-ups were practical, as well as Lions halfback Greg Laidlaw, who starts against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday, with all six additions named on the bench.

Former Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan in action against the All Blacks.
REUTERS

Former Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan in action against the All Blacks.

Quinlan admitted he could understand Gatland's thinking "from a selfish point of view" but said it was completely wrong. 

"Any person who has ever played for the Lions will tell you how proud they were to pull on that red jersey," he added. 

"I would have been no different and neither are the six guys who were called up over the weekend but that doesn't mean they earned it.

"These players are only going to be in camp for 10 days and by all accounts will be released after the Hurricanes game next week. That in itself devalues what it should mean to play for the Lions.

"When the squad was initially announced, everyone was picked on merit. For me, there were no real controversial decisions but these call-ups have raised eyebrows everywhere."

 - Stuff

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