Football WCQ Jordan v Socceroos A-League Round 1 Wanderers v Roar Cricket ODD NSW v SA Cricket ODD CA XI v VIC
Gatland runs rule over Lions tour hopefuls
Alex Lowe
10:22 AEST Sat Feb 9 2013

England captain Chris Robshaw has "reinvented himself" and forced his way back into British and Irish Lions contention, according to head coach Warren Gatland.

Just two months ago, Gatland said he would only consider "genuine" openside flankers for the tour of Australia and suggested Robshaw, for all his leadership qualities, did not fit that mould.

But three days after Gatland made those comments, Robshaw delivered an inspirational performance as England beat world champions New Zealand and his form has not dropped.

On Sunday in Dublin, Gatland will watch intently as Robshaw goes head to head with Ireland's Sean O'Brien, another player who many feel is more suited to the blindside.

"Robshaw has done a good job for England and the same could be said for O'Brien with Ireland. Players have the ability to reinvent themselves," Gatland said.

"Sometimes it comes down to how players are refereed in different competitions.

"In the Premiership it is a lot more open, with less competition on the ball, so you watch someone like Chris at Harlequins and he doesn't compete hard for the ball because he is not allowed to do so by the referee.

"But in international rugby referees allow that competition for the ball. England have worked hard on that area and they're competing more at the breakdown.

"I think Chris has reinvented himself, he's done really well and O'Brien has done the same so I am really looking forward to that match-up on Sunday, it's going to be fascinating."

Gatland will also be watching Brian O'Driscoll closely, the man he first capped for Ireland in 1999 who is determined to be part of a fourth Lions tour.

"The thing with Brian - everyone knows what a quality, world-class player he is - it is him holding his body together for that period," Gatland said.

"We are going on tour for six weeks that are pretty intensive. Is his body able to handle that day in day out?

"One of the things I pride myself on is being able to manage players, looking after the experienced players who are important to your squad."

O'Driscoll is favourite to be captain too, following his high-class performance against Wales last weekend.

"When you are selecting the captain of the Lions, ideally you say 'at this moment I think you are good enough to get in my Test side'," Gatland said.

"When you go on tour, there are going to be no guarantees.

"If someone else is playing better than you, you might be tour captain but someone else can be Test captain. I think that is a responsible attitude."

Gatland, who was encouraged by the first round of Six Nations fixtures, expects England to win a tight contest in Dublin.

The fly-half showdown will be compelling too, with Ireland's Jonathan Sexton facing off against England's Owen Farrell, whose ability and temperament has impressed Gatland.

Samoa winger cops five-week ban for kneeing
Most popular articles
Spotted....Professional surfer
strikes in fashion
Wide World of Sports TV partners
Footy ClassifiedOur award winning panel tell it how it really is in the AFL world.Wide World of SportsCatch up with Ken Sutcliffe and the team on Wide World of Sports.AFL Footy ShowAustralia's favourite team takes you through the week in AFL.NRL Footy ShowFatty and the gang bring you an entertaining look at rugby league.