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Wallaby great stirs British and Irish Lions row

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

LONDON - Renowned England-baiter David Campese waded into the row Thursday over how many Red Rose players should be in the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour of Australia.

England may be the only side in the ongoing Six Nations Championship who can complete a Grand Slam, having so far backed up their shock victory over world champions New Zealand, in December.

But despite the change in their on and off-field performance since a wretched 2011 World Cup campaign in New Zealand, Lions boss Warren Gatland this week stirred a hornets nest this week by suggesting that having too many England players in the combined side could create a media "circus".

Although the New Zealander has since insisted he was misinterpreted, Wallaby great Campese seized on Gatland's comments with the same alacrity the former wing showed in scoring 64 tries in 101 Tests for Australia.

"The relationship between Australia and the Poms (English) is as it's always been. Mate, you've got to sledge — everyone hates the Poms!," Campese told Thursday's edition of Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper.

"They win one game (against New Zealand) and all we hear is 'they are the best team in the world, they're going to win the World Cup, they're going to do this, this and this'.

"One game doesn't make you world beaters. You've only won one World Cup.

"You're playing against a country that's won two.

"That's the way we look at the English," said Campese, a member of the Australia side that beat England in the 1991 World Cup final at Twickenham.

Gatland, on sabbatical from his role as Wales coach in order to lead the Lions, tried to recover some ground with the Red Rose Brigade on Wednesday by insisting he'd select an entire 15 made up of English players for the first Test between the Lions, a combined side drawn from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, to play Australia in Brisbane in June if they were the best available.

However, Campese -- whose mistake helped cost Australia the 1989 series against the Lions — said: "I sympathise with him (Gatland). He's on a hiding to nothing whoever he picks. He'll be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't."