ROTORUA, New Zealand, June 17 (Reuters) - Four Wales players have been called into the British and Irish Lions squad for the remainder of the tour of New Zealand, with more announcements to follow, coach Warren Gatland said on Saturday.
Lock Cory Hill, hooker Kristian Dacey, scrumhalf Gareth Davies and prop Tomas Francis, who were in New Zealand on duty with Wales, will join up with the Lions in Rotorua ahead of the their tour match against the Maori All Blacks later on Saturday.
Wales were in action in Auckland on Friday, beating Tonga 24-7, and Lions coach Gatland said it made sense to bring in players who would not need time to acclimatise.
“We have said all along that we need to give ourselves the best chance of winning the test series and that could potentially involve calling up players,” he said in a statement.
“Bringing in these players from an identical time zone, who can hit the ground running and step straight in rather than having to adjust following long-haul travel, will help us manage players before the first test, give us quality training numbers to prepare properly as well as offering us options for selection for the Chiefs match.”
Gatland added that other players would be added to the squad once the four home unions had completed their weekend tests.
Scotland play Australia in Sydney and Ireland face Japan later on Saturday. England are on tour in Argentina.
With the additions, Gatland will now be able to run two separate teams, with the new players likely to feature in the ‘midweek’ squad against the Waikato Chiefs on Tuesday and Wellington Hurricanes the following week.
Gatland had said previously that he did not want to split the squad because it had caused resentment in previous tours.
The Lions side that takes on the Maori All Blacks is also likely to run out for the first test on June 24.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford