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A huge Lions focus: 'Scrum sessions so far have been pretty tasty'

By Liam Heagney

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Jamie George painfully knows to his cost one area of the game where the Springboks will target the Lions in the upcoming three-game Test series in South Africa. It was at the scrum where England were repeatedly punished in their November 2019 World Cup final defeat and Warren Gatland’s Lions are busily preparing to ensure that same pattern doesn’t materialise again. 

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Twenty-three of the players Gatland has with him in South Africa are already midway through their third week getting ready for the challenge that lies ahead and England hooker George had revealed how he was tasked with getting straight down to work regarding the scrums as soon as he came in through the door last week for the Lions’ second week in Jersey. 

George was one of eight players who joined up in week two and with the Lions having since flown to South Africa to prepare for their opening game in Johannesburg next Saturday, he is especially enjoying the enthusiasm which Irish tighthead Tadhg Furlong is bringing to the scrum mix. The pair started all three Test games for the 2017 Lions in New Zealand and their rapport was quickly re-established four years later. “Ridiculous personality,” said George of Furlong. 

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“He is a great guy, very funny but he takes his work very seriously. That struck me straight away. I had a great relationship with him in 2017 and we picked up where we left off and pretty much as soon as I walked in the door in Jersey I had a laptop in my face looking at scrum set-ups, engages and all that sort of stuff and what he needs from me and that’s perfect from me. 

“It’s great to be able to have that relationship with him. The role of a hooker in a scrum is to make sure is trying to get the best out of the people either side of you and he is a great character, probably one of the best tightheads in the world. We’re blessed in this team.

You look at (Andrew) Porter going out and you bring in someone of the calibre of (Kyle) Sinckler coming in and the scrum sessions so far have been pretty tasty I have to say. Competition for places is great but Tadhg is really putting his hand up and I thought he has a great game against Japan.”

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George admitted he has been on his toes to catch up with the Lions having arrived a week after the bulk of the squad. “It is challenging. Your main focus coming into camp is getting to know people and familiarising yourself with the plays. It was a bit tough last week, getting your head around things and working with different coaches. 

“The transition in 2017 was perhaps a bit easier with (Steve) Borthwick coming in and having such close relationship with him and a lot of the lineouts we used then we pretty similar to the ones we used in England at the time but it is different here now. It’s just about getting up to speed – there is a lot of walkthroughs and conversations happening at the minute around a laptop… 

“You’re getting your head around the new attacking shape, which is slightly different to what I have been used to before. The difficulty is we can’t be on the field for hours and hours at a time, so there’s a lot more studying. The training time probably isn’t as high as what other teams might work at.”

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A huge Lions focus: 'Scrum sessions so far have been pretty tasty'

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