How many players are needed for a Lions test series?

Nobody can accuse Warren Gatland of not doing his own thing. In the 2013 Lions series in Australia, he managed to incur the wrath of Ireland by dropping Brian O’Driscoll and then followed that up by starting 10 Welsh players in the decisive 3rd test.

This time he has ignored the mantra that the Lions is the best of Britain and Ireland by calling up 6 new squad players (4 from Wales), of which 4 could be classed as nothing like the next best in the position in the Home Nations – in some cases they aren’t even in the top 4 in their position in the home country.

This prompted the though – how many players are needed for a 3 match Lions test series? Could we see some of these players sitting on the bench come the final test?

The figures – summarised below in the graph, show that over the last 3 tours about 30-32 players were needed for the 3 tests. The 2001 tour seems to be an outlier based on this review, where Graham Henry kept a very consistent team for the series against Australia.

 

Capped Lions each year

The 2013 Australia tour saw 21 players capped in the first test with an additional 3 in the 2nd and 6 in he final game, when Gatland put his faith in the Welsh contingent.

The 2009 tour to South Africa involved some brutal rugby with a number of serious injuries leading to 5 extra players capped in both the 2nd and 3rd tests.

The changes made on the 2005 tour were arguably more an indication that Woodward got his selection wrong for the 1st test, and arguably the squad as a whole. 6 new caps were awarded for the 2nd test with the likes of Back, Hill, Corry and Grewcock making way from the starting team and O’Driscoll unavailable after a Mealamu and Umaga “accident” (according to Graham Henry).

The attrition rate hasn’t been too much of an issue on this tour to date, but with a midweek game against the Chiefs and the first test just 5 days away, things can quickly change.

If more bodies are required next week it will look odd to overlook last week’s squad additions to make a call back to the UK or Ireland for reinforcements. If the Lions win the test, people won’t question Gatland’s judgements, but if they suffer a heavy defeat these controversial decisions will be used against him.

 

 

Australia 2013

Test capped players

1st test – 21

2nd test – +3

3rd test – +6

Total number of players with test cap = 30.

Australia 2013 test cps

 

South Africa 2009

Test capped players

1st test – 20

2nd test – +5

3rd test – +5

Total number of players with test cap = 30

SA 2009 lions caps

 

New Zealand 2005

Test capped players

1st test – 21

2nd test – +6

3rd test – +5

Total number of players with test cap = 32

 

NZ 2005 caps.jpg

 

Australia 2001

Test capped players

1st test – 19

2nd test – +3

3rd test – +1

Total number of players with test cap = 23

 

Australia 2001 test caps

 

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