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The 2 messages taken by the Lions from England football's contact tracing debacle

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Lions boss Warren Gatland has described the sight of two England football players being ruled out of their final pool match at Euro 2020 due to contact tracing as a sharp reminder of the virus precautions that need to be observed on their South African rugby tour which begins next Saturday with the pre-departure match against Japan in Edinburgh. 


Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell will miss Tuesday night’s football match at Wembley after they chatted to their Chelsea teammate, Scotland’s Billy Gilmour, in the tunnel following last Friday’s 0-0 draw in London. Gilmour tested positive since then for Covid-19 and while Mount and Chilwell have twice tested negative, the pair were still told they must also isolate for a ten-day period.

Gatland’s Lions had their first vaccination shots in London last month and they have been having their second shots while preparing for the tour on the Channel Island of Jersey. Despite that protection, the coach has explained there will definitely be no hugging players when the tour matches start.   

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“Absolutely, we are very, very aware,” said Gatland after naming his XV to face Japan this Saturday in Edinburgh. “The players have had a couple of campaigns in the autumn and the Six Nations, particularly the home nations were pretty good in terms of staying covid-free. Yeah, there are two messages there. We have got to make sure we really adhere to the protocols and the second one is to make sure there is no hugging.”

Despite the restrictions, Gatland remarked that it hasn’t diluted the typical atmosphere of a Lions tour amongst the squad. “It has come around pretty quickly in the end. It seemed to take forever in terms of getting the team announced but now the squad is together, it’s kind of strange at the moment because even though we are in a bubble it kind of seems like what you would normally do. 

“The only thing is that the boys on their days off are not having the opportunity to walk into town and go and have coffees and relax and that sort of thing. We are aware of some of the restrictions and we have got to plan accordingly for that and make sure we keep the boys entertained the best we possibly can in our bubble. 


“But we’re incredibly excited. There is a hint of disappointment, a sadness I suppose, the fact we are not going to have fans and we won’t see the sea of red you associated Lions tours with and the atmosphere they create in the grounds. That is going to be the downside of it, so the rugby is hopefully going to do the talking.”


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