MX23RW : Saturday, November 17 09:42:42

Warren Gatland: 'Top players will miss out on British and Irish Lions selection'

Warren Gatland admits that he is "excited about the potential" in the British and Irish Lions' playing ranks, but says picking a final squad is going to be very tough.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has warned that "some real quality players" are going to miss out on inclusion when it comes to naming his squad for this summer's tour of New Zealand.

The 53-year-old, who was also in charge for the victorious 2013 trip Down Under, will announce his travelling party and captain on April 19.

Gatland insists that whittling down his list of options is even tougher this time around compared to four years ago, while also hinting that the final round of Six Nations fixtures may determine who makes the cut.

"It's much harder in a positive way," he told BBC Sport. "There are going to be some real quality players that are going to miss out. It's a nice position to be in. It's not always the way you want it with good players missing out on going on tour. But I am excited about the potential we have at the moment.

"It's about people fronting up under pressure to perform when it really matters. There are a lot of English players who have done well. There is an expectation on England, and Ireland are going to make it extremely difficult. I would not be surprised if Ireland won this weekend.

"Wales needed to front up last weekend against Ireland. Now the Irish are in the same boat this weekend. Scotland will have two home wins but would have been very disappointed with their performance against England. It will be interesting to see how they back that up with a performance under pressure against Italy."

Gatland recently had to deny reports that he is considering stepping down as Wales boss, with his contract due to run until the next Rugby World Cup.


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Eddie Jones watches on during the Six Nations game between Scotland and England on February 6, 2016
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