Lions 2013: Owen Farrell will thrive on tour – Gatland
Lions coach Warren Gatland believes England fly-half Owen Farrell, 21, will bounce back from a disappointing end to the season and flourish in Australia.
Warren Gatland Lions boss
“One of the things we want to ensure is we are not seen by the Aussies as a bunch of whingers”
"It has been tough for Owen but he tends to respond well to adversity and come back stronger," Gatland said.
"One of the reasons we like him is because he is mentally tough."
Farrell's late-season performances were criticised as both Saracens and England saw promising campaigns come up short, but Gatland insisted: "He will react well to any criticism and I am sure he will do well on the tour."
Saracens' surprise Premiership semi-final defeat by Northampton on Sunday, a fortnight after they lost to Toulon in the Heineken Cup semi-finals, has had the welcome side-effect of bolstering the Lions' preparations ahead of their opening game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on 1 June.
With Cian Healy preparing for the Amlin Challenge Cup final and Pro 12 final with Leinster over the next fortnight, and Gethin Jenkins a Heineken Cup final and Top 14 semi-final with Toulon, Sarries' progress to the Premiership final would have deprived Gatland of all three of his loose-head props.
But Mako Vunipola, as well as Saracens tight-head prop Matt Stevens, will now be available for the Lions' training camps in Wales this week and Ireland next week, although Gatland has also summoned an unnamed Welsh Under-20s loose-head to fill in as training cover this week.
Farrell's availability also means he is likely to start the tour opener in Hong Kong, with Jonny Sexton - the only other specialist fly-half in the squad - preparing for two finals with Leinster.
Countdown to Lions tour
- 14-17 May: Lions training camp in Wales
- 17 & 18 May: Amlin Challenge Cup & Heineken Cup finals
- 20-24 May: Lions training camp in Dublin
- 25 May: Premiership and Pro 12 finals, French Top 14 semis
- 27 May: Lions fly to Hong Kong
"It is disappointing for Saracens but for us it does help our preparation," Gatland conceded. "As well as the two props, it gives us an opportunity to work with Owen for the next couple of weeks."
Conversely, Northampton's victory means Dylan Hartley will go head to head with Leicester's Tom Youngs in the Premiership final on 25 May, leaving Wales' Richard Hibbard as the only hooker left to prepare with the Lions.
It is hardly ideal, with the 15 players involved in finals unable to be realistically considered for a start until at least the second game of the tour.
But Gatland - who has noted in the recent Super 15 displays of the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds in particular "how motivated Australia's players are to do well and get selected to face the Lions" - insists he will not be making an issue of it, for fear of giving the Wallabies extra ammunition.
Did You Know?
In the years of the past three Lions tours, a team from the country hosting the Lions has won the Super Rugby title: ACT Brumbies in 2001, Canterbury Crusaders in 2005 and the Bulls from South Africa in 2009.
"It is going to be challenging and tough and it's not the easiest thing in terms of preparation but the last thing I want to do is start complaining about it now," he added.
"I hope going forward that if we are going to take the Lions seriously, they need to have adequate preparation time to make a good fist of it on tour.
"To fit the Lions into the schedule you need the co-operation of all the various governing bodies and the touring country as well.
"My ideal would be to have two or three weeks here [with the whole squad] preparing for the tour, but we haven't got that and we have known about it for a while.
"One of the things we want to ensure is we are not seen by the Aussies as a bunch of whingers. We have just got to make the best of it."