Gatland defends Lions meet-up date

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has defended the decision to hold the squad’s admin day this week after complaints from Saracens.

The English champions are preparing for this weekend's Champions Cup final against Clermont and cancelled their Monday training session with six players away at the Lions 'messy Monday' in London, where kit is handed out. 

Addressing the media Gatland insisted the date had been scheduled for months while sympathising with Saracens boss Mark McCall.

“I've got to understand where they are coming from, having been involved in the situation, and I understand Mark's reasoning as well,” Gatland told the Telegraph.

“If it had been last week it would have potentially affected 22 clubs. I understand it's a massive week for them. But Mondays tend to be a recovery day.

“This date has been communicated months and months and months ago. Now I don't know when Saracens got the information. But we have told the unions about this date for a long, long time. So we haven't had any requests from anyone to move this date.

“But I understand the situation, and appreciate the fact that Saracens and Gloucester [preparing for the Challenge Cup final] are releasing their players to us.

“If they hadn't been released to us that would have been very difficult for a number of reasons. So it does make a difference.”

Gatland also addressed the withdrawal of Leicester and England scrum-half Ben Youngs, who announced on Saturday that he was pulling out of the tour to support his family at a difficult time.

“It was really tough for Ben, he rang me on Saturday,” said Gatland.

“Obviously our thoughts to Tom and his family, in terms of we've known something's been ill for a while.

“As far as I'm concerned family comes first, he's made that decision and we know how close they are and we fully respect that decision and understand it. After having spoken to Ben from a selection viewpoint it was reasonably easy.

“I rang Gregor Townsend and David Humphreys as well. Greig Laidlaw was someone we'd discussed initially, but the fact he'd been injured in the Six Nations was one of the reasons he probably wasn't in the original squad.

“It was obviously not ideal for him, but he's here from day one which is a bit easier than a later introduction to the squad."