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'If we do go fishing...': Lions quip over gunboat standoff that unfolded at pre-tour Jersey base

By Liam Heagney

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The last thing Warren Gatland would have imagined to be hearing about on the same day that he announced his 37-strong 2021 Lions tour squad was that the British Government had sent the Royal Navy to patrol the waters near the Jersey port of Saint Helier on the Channel Island where the tourists will first assemble for training in June.  


Jersey was last month chosen by Gatland as the place for his newly announced squad to come together in a secluded area of Britain ahead of the June 26 pre-tour match versus Japan in Edinburgh.

With the pandemic requiring the Lions to set up a virus safety bubble around their preparations, the New Zealander felt Jersey would be an ideal base to start hatching his plan to defeat the world champions Springboks. 

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The crazy reaction on the RugbyPass Fanzone to the 2021 Lions squad announcement
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The crazy reaction on the RugbyPass Fanzone to the 2021 Lions squad announcement

However, rather than the arrival of the Lions being the biggest story of the island’s summer, protests by angry French fishermen materialised this week, resulting in Royal Navy and French police boats moving into waters near St Helier port in an effort to keep the peace before the protest broke up later on Thursday.

“I wasn’t expecting that… I’m only concentrating on the rugby side so I have got no idea about the other stuff that is going on. We have just got to make sure if we do go fishing we don’t go out too far,” quipped Gatland when asked about the issue dominating the Jersey conversation and whether it could persist and affect the preparation plans the Lions have next month on an island that sources 95 per cent of its electricity via three undersea cables from France. Cutting off that supply was threatened during some tense sabre-rattling.    

“The thing about the Jersey decision was they have got a fantastic facility over there. The way things are at the moment, we will get some sort of normality for a week or so while making sure we are conscious of being safe in doing what we do. The big challenge for us is being in a bubble in South Africa and potentially having to quarantine when we come back from.


“If you look at the two-week camp before we go on tour, you could be up to ten weeks away from home in a bubble. The rugby side takes care of itself so it’s important for me that we get the other stuff right and try and think about players, their well-being and mental health as much as anything. The rugby is going to be the easy part. If we get the other stuff right we have got a chance of performing on the field.”

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