The 'exceptional' reason why Lions believe they are ready to win
New Lions starting hooker Ken Owens believes there is one impressive reason why Warren Gatland’s tourists are poised to clinch their Test series versus the Springboks this Saturday – the attitude of the non-matchday 23 in training this week in ensuring those chosen to play are fully ready to perform at their best.
Past Lions tours have traditionally seen interest wane amongst those surplus players who are not involved in the Test team selection and there have been multiple stories of nights out and activities away from the camp during the final week on past tours.
However, with the pandemic restrictions confining all the Lions to the hotel base outside Cape Town, there has apparently been no wavering in attitude by the 17 players Warren Gatland has had with him this week in training for a match they will play no part in.
Having featured twice off the bench behind Jamie George in the drawn 2017 series with New Zealand and playing twice more off the bench in recent weeks versus South Africa behind Luke Cowan-Dickie, veteran 34-year-old hooker Owens is now set for his first Lions Test start and he was wholesome in his praise on Thursday for the work ethic being produced by those players who won’t be togging out for Saturday’s series decider.
“We have got to create our own momentum from the start and the way we have trained this week has been really good,” he reported. “The non-23 have been exceptional the way they have prepared the boys who are starting and the boys coming off the bench. It has been a phenomenal squad effort so for us, it’s about starting the game the way we want to start it and control the early exchanges.”
From a starter in all three games versus the All Blacks four years ago to holding a tackle bag on the training ground for the Test series in South Africa…#CastleLionsSeries #LionsTour2021 #LionsRugby
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 4, 2021
Owens, who has started in 49 of his 82 Welsh caps, doesn’t believe there is much difference between his Lions role this weekend and what he was tasked with the past two weekends when coming off the bench in the series which is currently all square at one win each. “For me, it’s a slightly different role but I have been used to doing it at international level with Wales, starting games, so it is one I am looking forward to. It’s about being accurate, bringing that energy early on and making sure that our set-piece is in a good place to give us the opportunity there for us to do what we want to do.”
The Wales hooker is one of six changes to the Lions starting XV following their 27-9 second Test loss to the Springboks. He is joined in the front row by his Scarlets clubmate Wyn Jones and he insisted the mood was one of optimism despite the manner of last Saturday’s bruising defeat.
“We know there are fix-ups there and we know that Wyn and myself are coming in to freshen things up. It’s a huge challenge for us but we are pretty confident in each other’s abilities and the combination, myself, Wyn and Tadhg (Furlong) – have scrummaged together before and we are just looking forward to that challenge South Africa is going to bring.
“We were hugely disappointed and frustrated with the result last Saturday. Plenty to work on but we are in a good place. Trained really well this week, plenty of intensity and we’re looking forward to the series decider… The confidence is still there. We know and trust our processes in what we are trying to achieve. We are here for a huge decider and are in a really good place. It all bodes well for a great finale.”
"The coaches are reasonable enough, they are not going to ask you for miracles"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 5, 2021
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