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Time not on Jones' side - Gatland

Ryan Jones
Warren Gatland says Ryan Jones will be a good Lions tour replacement

Wales boss and Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland says Lions replacement Ryan Jones may not have time to stake a Test claim in South Africa.

Jones joined the squad on Thursday after Stephen Ferris left but will not face Western Province on Saturday.

That leaves only Tuesday's Southern Kings game before the first Test four days later and Gatland said: "That's... a very limited amount of time."

Gatland also called on scrum-half Mike Phillips to improve his match approach.

Phillips was the Lions man-of-the-match in the 39-3 win over the Sharks on Wednesday, scoring a solo try in the process.

"Mike's done well [against the Sharks]," said Gatland. "I thought he was on the ground too much... I thought a couple of times he took a couple of things on a bit too much.

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"He's aware of that. He scored a nice try. The thing that Mike Phillips gives you - he gives you physicality.

"He's a presence, he's always a threat around the breakdown so he's often able to give 10s a little bit more space.

"And we saw that… Mike Phillips is a threat and Jamie Roberts is a threat so both inside and outside we've got a little bit of space.

"But he's done really well, his passing's accurate.

"I just think your nines have got to be on their feet - and on the ground they're out of the game and two or three times he was probably off his feet.

"He played well, but… the balance wasn't quite there."

Wales skipper Jones was a controversial omission from the original Lions party, then saw England's Tom Croft called in ahead of him when Irishman Alan Quinlan was banned.

Jones, an impressive 2005 tourist to New Zealand, has taken another Irishman, Stephen Ferris' place, but Gatland says time is not on Jones' side to lay down a marker for a back-row Test spot.

"Whether he's [Jones] going to get that opportunity or not - that's the hard thing," said Gatland.

"There were two more games on the 2005 tour so he had a little bit more of a lead-in to get an opportunity to have an impact.

"So he's not going to be involved on the weekend [v Western Province] so whether he's involved on Tuesday... that's going to give him a very limited amount of time to get that opportunity.

"But he's a quality player. He's very experienced and I think he'll be a good substitute for the loss of Stephen Ferris."

The Lions meet South Africa in the first of three Tests in Durban on 20 June, then in in Pretoria (27 June) and Johannesburg (4 July).

Coach Ian McGeechan is expected to unveil his first Test line-up on Wednesday, 17 June.



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