WELLINGTON The son of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is one step closer to making his Super Rugby debut after being called into the Auckland Blues squad as injury cover.
Bryn Gatland, who plays as flyhalf for North Harbour in New Zealand's provincial championship, was drafted into the Blues squad on Tuesday as cover for Ihaia West, who has been ruled out for up to four weeks with an ankle injury.
With fellow flyhalf Stephen Perofeta also battling with injury, Gatland is likely to be named on the bench for the Blues clash with the Otago Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday, with Piers Francis expected to retain the starting spot.
The 21-year-old Gatland, who helped North Harbour to the second-tier provincial title last year, was not selected in any of New Zealand's five Super Rugby sides for this season but had been training with the Canterbury Crusaders until Blues coach Tana Umaga called him into the side.
"It is a bit strange being flown all over the country," Gatland told the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday. "It is tough being an injury replacement as you don't have any certainty or stability. One minute you are in, the next you are out.
"If I get a chance to get on the field I'll do what I can to put my best foot forward.
"You see it all the time, someone gets a little bit of an opportunity, they do well and it all works out for them."
If it does work out well for him, his elevation to the Blues squad raises the possibility he could play against his father when the Lions tour New Zealand in June.
The Lions face all five Super Rugby sides with the Blues hosting them on June 7 at Eden Park, though the younger Gatland said he was not thinking about that yet.
"It has been mentioned about a million times," a grinning Gatland told TVNZ. "I can't look that too far ahead but it would be awesome."
Umaga's side, who are fourth in the New Zealand conference, also could introduce two-times World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams for the Dunedin clash after a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained at the Rio Olympics delayed his debut for the team.
The 31-year-old Williams took full part in Blues training on Tuesday, with the team listing his participation as dependent on further medical tests.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O'Brien)