Gatland defends Lions meet-up after Saracens criticism

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Warren Gatland understands why Mark McCall was not impressed to see six Saracens players link up with the British and Irish Lions squad five days before the European Champions Cup final but claimed the meeting was necessary.

Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, George Kruis and Jamie George headed off for a Lions get-together on Monday along with brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola at the start of a week when Sarries take on Clermont Auvergne at Murrayfield.

Sarries director of rugby McCall told the Sunday Telegraph he found it "unbelievable" that the players would be required to report for duty in London in "the most important week of the season".

Gloucester duo Greig Laidlaw and Ross Moriarty were also required to join the Lions squad just four days before they face Stade Francais in the European Challenge Cup final.

Lions head coach Gatland said: "I've got to understand where they are coming from, having been involved in the situation, and I understand Mark's reasoning as well.

"Potentially, if it had been last week, it would have 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 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."