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How the Lions coaches have coped without the isolated Townsend

By Liam Heagney

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Neil Jenkins has given an insight into how the Lions are coping with preparations in Cape Town to face South Africa A with their attack/backs coach Gregor Townsend left behind in Johannesburg after he got caught in last week’s virus crisis that affected Warren Gatland’s tour party. The Scotland boss, a player on the successful Lions tour to South Africa in 1997, is now set to miss his third match of the tour having been confined to his hotel room for last week’s back-to-back wins over the Sharks.

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Townsend was viewed as an intriguing inclusion on Gatland’s Lions tour staff, especially after Scotland managed to win away at both England and France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations. However, with the isolation period of the people caught up in last Wednesday’s positive virus test only set to elapse this Wednesday, the Scotsman has been removed from hands-on involvement for a week – quite a chunk of time in a tour that is now into its 17th day on South African soil. 

“It’s all of us,” said Lions kicking coach Jenkins when asked about the additional workload that needed to be taken on in the absence of Townsend along with three other staff members and one player who all stayed behind in Johannesburg when the Lions flew to Cape Town on Sunday. “Warren leads everything, as he always does. Steve (Tandy), myself and the players – we have got some fantastic players here that can lead from the front both on and off the pitch. 

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“Certainly our decision-makers and our 10s are experienced players and they can take a fair bit of that as well. It’s just everyone linking in, everyone helping out, same as we always do day-to-day. It’s no different really. Of course, we would love Gregor here, there is no doubting that, and he will be here pretty soon. But everyone is chipping in and everyone is trying to give their own input in the right way.  

“We will be clear and concise (in our messages) and the guys will be ready to rock (against South Africa A). We have got no issues with that. We’d love Gregor and everyone here doing what they do day in day out, but it is what it is. There was a possibility that something like this could happen. You don’t want it to happen but it has happened and we would like to think we have gone about our business pretty well and we look forward. Hopefully, the messages will be clear and we will be ready to play.”

Jenkins added that he welcomes the prospect of the South Africa A side being stacked with so many World Cup winners just ten days out from the opening match in the three-game Test series the Lions will play the Springboks in. “Twelve years ago probably some of the (preparation) games were a little bit easier than we would have liked and we had the shock of our lives against South Africa in the first Test.

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“There is no doubting that and it took us about a half to get into that game to realise what we were up against. Certainly, we know what we are up against on this trip. There is no doubting they are a fantastic team, fantastic players, well-coached, world champions obviously. It is going to be a good marker for both sides. I’m excited and I know everyone else is.”

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How the Lions coaches have coped without the isolated Townsend

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