The footballer backs Lions coach for making “big calls”

Jamie Carragher praises Warren Gatland 

After guiding the British & Irish Lions 2021 squad to victory in the first Test against South Africa, Warren Gatland has received praise from an unexpected quarter.

The Lions are a step closer to winning a first series in South Africa since 1997 – and Gatland has been backed by former Liverpool and England footballer Jamie Carragher for making “big calls”.

Carragher tweeted: “What a coach Warren Gatland is, never gets swayed by anyone into decisions & is never afraid to make big calls. Almost always gets them right!”

A couple of the big calls Gatland has made over recent months certainly paid off in the first Test against the world champions.

Courtney Lawes is thought to be the player that caused the Lions coaches to increase the original squad size from 36 to 37 and he delivered an impressive performance at blindside in the opening Test against the Boks, surely pushing Maro Itoje close when it came to the Player of the Match award.

Gatland said: “He was brilliant. His lineout stuff was good, great carries and footwork.”

Related: Lions beat Springboks in first Test

Selecting Jack Conan at No 8 ahead of perennial favourite Taulupe Faletau was another significant decision and Gatland was pleased with how the Ireland back-row performed.

“Jack did what he does well, and the reason we picked him, he doesn’t make mistakes,” said Gatland. “He’s incredibly accurate, he takes those kick-offs, he’s got some good footwork, he’s got us some go forward and does a lot of the unspectacular stuff that you need in a forward pack to get the balance right. We’re really pleased with his performance, and it was incredibly solid.

“He’s continued to improve in this environment. He’s like a sponge in terms of gaining knowledge. He asks really good questions, he takes on information well and we’re really pleased with his development.

“I remember the first game he played he was incredibly nervous and he’s one of those players who does get pretty nervy before a game but this week he seemed a lot calmer and more assured. I think that’s given him a lot of confidence and self-belief in his own performances.”

Related: Warren Gatland – “Next week will be even tougher”

Gatland, of course, is likely to have more big calls to make over the next few days as he decides whether to ‘stick or twist’ when it comes to Lions selection for the second Test.

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