James Mortimer 18.Feb.2013Getty Images
Lions coach Warren Gatland created a storm last week by stating it would be dangerous to pick too many English players for the touring party, a comment that he has since retracted.
Fitzpatrick, who played 92 Tests for the All Blacks, said to Wales Online that he knew his old friend (Gatland was understudy to Fitzpatrick for many years) would pick the best players no matter what, despite his remarks last week.
“I was surprised to hear what Gats had to say on the English because you have got to be pretty open-minded when it comes to picking the Lions party,” he said.
“You have got to pick your best players, irrespective if they are all from England, Wales, Ireland or Scotland.
“Gats knows that and that’s what he will do because he’s a winner and wants to win that Lions series in Australia. I know him and he’s not going to leave players at home just because they are English.
“He will take the best 35 or 36 players from Britain and Ireland.”
While musing continue as to the final makeup of the Lions squad, Fitzpatrick said the most important aspect was being able to control the ruck contest, saying that there was plenty of physicality on display in Europe.
“The breakdown will be crucial in Australia and, from what I’ve seen so far in this Six Nations, England and Ireland are very physical at it,” the former All Blacks captain said.
“It’s an area of the game the Lions can really dominate when you look at what Australia do. Boss the collisions and the Lions will be in business.
“Line-outs and scrums should be a given at that level but you create space out wide by your efficiency at the breakdown and ability to create quick ball.”