Kyle Sinckler and Marcus Smith on 35-player Lions tour standby list

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Kyle Sinckler. - PA
Kyle Sinckler. - PA

Prop Kyle Sinckler remains in contention for a Lions injury call-up after Warren Gatland decided to place more than 30 players who received invitation letters on his standby list.

In April, Lions head coach Gatland sent out more than 70 invitations before last week announcing his 37-man squad, which did not include Sinckler as well as Ireland stars Johnny Sexton and James Ryan to the shock of many. All will now be told to keep themselves ready for when injuries strike on the notoriously brutal tour to South Africa. That back-up list will also include England outsiders Danny Care and Ben Spencer, the scrum-halves, as well as Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith who has become the form player in the Premiership.

While Gatland had the option of having a streamlined pool of reserves, he wanted to ensure that he had at least two players who could cover each position. That will also allow him to continue to monitor players’ form entering the tailend of the domestic season. On the last Lions tour to South Africa in 2009, head coach Sir Ian McGeechan needed to call up nine replacements.

Many of those went on to play an important role within the series with England flanker Tom Croft, who came in for the suspended Alan Quinlan, starting the first two Tests. Four years later, the addition of England prop Alex Corbisiero, who replaced Cian Healy, arguably turned the 2013 series in the Lions’ favour against Australia.

Watch: British and Irish Lions - The full squad for South Africa tour

If those players are not involved in their countries’ summer international matches, they will be allowed to go on holiday to government designated green list countries. Any player who receives a call-up will be required to submit a PCR test before boarding a flight to South Africa and will then be subject to further testing and a short period of quarantine before being allowed to join up with the wider squad.

Gatland is not obliged to make a like for like positional changes, which could allow certain players come into the selection equation if they prove the fitness or form. That includes England and Sale Sharks centre Manu Tuilagi, who was the subject of much discussion within the Lions selection meetings. Ultimately he was deemed too much of a risk having not played since September because of an achilles injury, although Alex Sanderson, the Sale director of rugby, said that Tuilagi is hitting all his correct markers in training and is very close to making his return.

Last week Lions attack coach Gregor Townsend deliberately left the door open for Tuilagi to come in as a wild-card selection. “If he shows what he is capable of and gets a lot of gametime, then we know that he’s on that stand-by list and he could be an option,” Townsend said. “The inevitability is that we will have some injuries. Players will have to be called up. It might be that we have to call up a like for like replacement or it might be that we see someone in another position playing really who we could do with on the tour. If he does come back to Test match fitness in such a short time, it would be an amazing turn-around. I hope he does, I really do.”

Meanwhile, the Lions revealed that Courtney Lawes was included on the longlist despite the Northampton forward stating in interviews that he had not received an invitation. However, the email to Lawes, who was added to the squad as its 37th man, was sent to the wrong address.