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'All the boys can see everyone's scores or tackle ratios'

By Liam Heagney

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Defence coach Steve Tandy has shed some light on the methods he is using to get the best out of the Lions to ensure their rearguard is ready to take on the world champions Springboks in the thee-Test series later this month. The Lions have conceded 24 points, three tries and missed tackles have been attributed to 23 different players, Duhan van der Merwe and Toby Faletau heading the list with four misses each. That is one aspect of the defensive ledger, but there are way more positive aspects. 

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For instance, Courtney Lawes has made 28 tackles, Kyle Sinckler 27, Faletau 25 and Jamie George 23 in their two appearances, with Hamish Watson delivering 16 in his sole appearance last Saturday. Meanwhile, Jack Conan and Bundee Aki each enjoyed three turnover wins in the opener versus Japan.

Defence in the previous two tours on the watch of Warren Gatland has been the remit of Andy Farrell, the now Ireland boss who has been succeeded for this Lions trip by Scotland assistant Tandy who touched on how he has his charges going about their tour business minus the ball.  

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Warren Gatland discusses a potential Lions positional switch
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Warren Gatland discusses a potential Lions positional switch

“We have got our own formats and own coding systems for what we look at,” he explained before it was officially confirmed that this Saturday Lions versus Bulls fixture in Pretoria was off. “All the boys can see everyone’s scores or tackle ratios or what we are looking for within that system, so all that is there so they can be competitive.

“But every day you see them working on what we need to and pushing each other on, critiquing each other and driving those standards. It’s very competitive because ultimately everyone here wants to put their best foot forward because we have huge Test matches coming up at the end of the month.

“I did think about it at the start of the tour, having (defence) leaders, but we have got an abundance of them and what I am really enjoying through Covid is you get more time to spend with them,” he continued. “You get lots of small conversations and people come to the forefront of it and changing the team frequently now, different people have got opportunities to shine but everyone has got a real energy about it and striking up lots of conversations, lots of detail, lots of how we can improve game to game. We have leaders right across the board.

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“As a team, we are doing pretty well at the minute in what we are looking for structurally. That is definitely improving as our line speed is clicking into gear, but it’s too early to say these guys are absolutely standing out at the top of the leaderboard at this moment in time.” 

A Lions trend has been an emphasis on higher-up tackling. “There is a little bit of tactic in and around how we go about it, the assistant tackler,” admitted Tandy. “In fairness, you look at the strengths in the Lions, we have got unbelievable strengths whether it be over ball, up top. You see Robbie (Henshaw) is strong up top, Duhan is holding up… it’s just trying framework something they can really express themselves in and around those contact areas.”

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'All the boys can see everyone's scores or tackle ratios'

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