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British and Irish Lions miss a staggering 27 players for the first pre-tour training camp at the Vale of Glamorgan

Mirror logo Mirror 15/05/2017
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British and Irish Lions were missing a staggering 27 players for the first pre-tour training camp at the Vale of Glamorgan on Monday.

Warren Gatland was forced to start his preparations without a number of his key players after Gloucester's European Challenge Cup Final defeat handed Northampton Saints a Euro lifeline and means George North and a number of other players will delay meeting up with the squad.

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According to Wales Online the coaching team will have to manage with severely depleted resources because players who are involved in PRO12 and Aviva Premiership semi-finals will remain with their club sides, as will those involved in the various play-offs. 

That means the seven-strong Scarlets and Ospreys’ contingent, as well as the representatives from Leinster, Munster, Saracens, Wasps, Exeter and Leicester won’t be there, along with the Saints duo and Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who is likely to feature in Toulon's Top14 semi-final qualifier against Castres on Friday.

Saints will take on Irish province Connacht next Saturday at Franklin’s Gardens, with the winner hosting either Stade or Cardiff Blues - who clash in Paris the previous evening.

The final takes place the following Friday (May 26), just eight days before the Lions’ tour opener against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

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North is a leading contender to make Warren Gatland’s Test XV to take on the All Blacks, with the former Scarlet enjoying a strong finish to Wales’ Six Nations campaign.

Four years ago he played a starring role in the triumph over Australia, scoring a stunning individual try in the opening Test and providing one of the iconic images of the trip in the second with his ‘fireman’s lift’ of Wallaby star Israel Folau.

Saints also have England lock Courtney Lawes in their squad, providing Gatland with further headaches in his preparation for a trip that has been billed as the toughest the Lions have faced.

The squad are meeting up at the Welsh Rugby Union team base at the Vale for the first of two camps - the other is in Ireland - before the squad flies out to New Zealand.

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Skipper Sam Warburton, who is recovering from a knee injury, will be with the Lions as he is not required by Cardiff Blues.

It means only 14 members of Gatland's squad will pitch up at the Vale.

The New Zealander will also be keeping an anxious watch on the events in Murrayfield today as Saracens go in search of a successive Champions Cup crown against Clermont Auvergne.

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Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Owen Farrell all start for the English side.

At least Gloucester duo Ross Moriarty and Greig Laidlaw can now give the Lions their full focus.

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Wales No. 8 Moriarty crossed for a late consolation try in the 25-17 defeat in Edinburgh, while Laidlaw came on as a replacement early in the second half.

The full list of absentees from Gatland's first Lions camp

Saracens (6) - Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell

Leinster (5) - Tadhg Furlong, Jack McGrath, Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Sean O'Brien

Ospreys (4) - Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Justin Tipuric

Scarlets (3) - Ken Owens, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies

Munster (3) - Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander

Northampton (2) - George North, Courtney Lawes

Leicester (1) - Dan Cole

Exeter (1) - Jack Nowell

Wasps (1) - Elliot Daly

Toulon (1) - Leigh Halfpenny

... and those who will be left

Taulupe Faletau, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson (Bath), Jared Payne, Rory Best, Iain Henderson (Ulster), Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Ross Moriarty, Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Ben Te'o (Worcester) Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues).

Champions Cup play-off dates

Friday, May 19 - Play-off 2: Stade Français Paris v Cardiff Blues, Stade Jean Bouin (6pm local time)

Saturday, May 20 - Play-off 1: Northampton Saints v Connacht Rugby, Franklin’s Gardens (4pm)

Play-off Final – Friday, May 26: Winner Play-off 1 v winner Play-off 2 (7.45pm) The winner of Play-off 1 will have home advantage.

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