June 8, 2018 / 7:09 AM / 10 months ago

Lions' schedule in New Zealand posed injury risk, says Gatland

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Wales vs France - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - March 17, 2018 Wales head coach Warren Gatland before the match REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

(Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions’ tight schedule in New Zealand last year opened them up to the risk of injury and they must have more time to prepare for the 2021 tour of South Africa, Warren Gatland has said.

Gatland, who led the Lions to a test series victory against Australia in 2013 and a drawn series against New Zealand last year, has repeatedly voiced concerns about the Lions schedule after they played 10 games in six weeks in New Zealand.

“I felt in New Zealand my biggest concern was flying on the Monday, arriving on the Wednesday, and then playing that Saturday,” said Gatland, the current Wales coach. “By doing that we were opening up players to the potential of injury risk.

“My view is that by taking the field as early as we did in New Zealand without adequate preparation, we were doing that. I’m not the only who has said that, everyone has.”

Gatland’s latest comments come after Premiership Rugby chief Mark McCafferty’s said that shortening the English top-flight season to give more time for the Lions would be “suicide” for the domestic competition.

Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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