Gatland: I won't cut English from Lions

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says he will field an entire side of English players in the first test against Australia if it is the best team he has available.

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The New Zealand-born coach yesterday claimed a large number of English players in the 37-strong Lions squad would generate extra pressure on the touring party and attract negative attention.

However, the 49-year old today tried to distance himself from the statements, which referenced England's doomed Rugby World Cup campaign in New Zealand which was dogged by off-field controversy.

Gatland said: "I am extremely disappointed that anybody should try to misinterpret what I said and try to say that will count against English players, that's absolute garbage.

"The last thing I would ever do is limit the number of English players. There is absolutely no limit to the number of any players from any nation we will pick if they are worthy of a place on the tour.

"I would happily pick 15 English players in the first Test at Brisbane if I thought they were the best 15 players for the job. The only consideration for a Lions coach is to get the best 15 on the park to do the job."

Gatland had said in the interview an English newspaper that "the best players will be selected", but "it's just being aware of potential issues that may arise".

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