The Springboks are waiting | Lions Weekly Round-up #4
The British & Irish Lions Weekly round-up, brought to you by The Famous Grouse
Warren Gatland’s Lions were able to put the disappointment of Wednesday’s loss to South Africa A behind them on Saturday with a free-flowing display against the DHL Stormers, scoring seven tries in a 49-3 win. South Africa A were loaded with World Cup winners and would have provided Gatland an insight into what will come in the Test series which is now only days away.
Three players flew in to join the Lions this week, including captain Alun Wyn Jones, who has recovered from his dislocated shoulder against Japan. The Welshman started on the bench against the Stormers, coming on in the second half, while fellow new arrival Marcus Smith started at fly-half. Hooker Ronan Kelleher is the final member of the trio, after Gatland said it is “prudent to bring in cover in that position.”
The fly-half stocks had been running low this week, as Finn Russell continues to rehab his Achilles injury, while a rolled ankle forced Dan Biggar out of the last two matches. It is unclear whether the Scot will remain with the touring party, but Biggar has recovered. Liam Williams and Wyn Jones were also casualties from the South Africa A match. The fullback is due to complete the return to play protocols for concussion today, while the prop is resting after a stinger injury.
Defence coach Steve Tandy has confirmed that every player other than Russell is available for selection.
OFF THE PITCH
The verbal sparring between Gatland and Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is well under way. The South African kicked off the war of words by saying “I’m sure Warren and the guys wouldn’t be afraid or scared or say no” to the prospect of playing South Africa A twice, something that was categorically ruled out by Gatland.
After the midweek match, questions were raised about some of the officiating in the match and the legality of tackles. However, Gatland picked up on Erasmus’ role as the team’s water boy, handing down some valuable advice. He said: “He was the water boy running on the pitch – if you’re the water boy running onto the pitch you’ve got to make sure you’re carrying water!”
STAT OF THE WEEK
After a physical and error-strewn opening half against the Stormers, the game opened up in the second half, and the Lions played some of their most expansive rugby of the tour, and in no way looked like a squad that were playing their sixth game in almost 20 days. No stat provides a greater picture of the Lions’ attacking mindset than this one:
Lions avg 7 offloads per game on 2017 tour, 9 in 2021 before today, 17 after 70 mins v Stormers
— Russ Petty (@rpetty80) July 17, 2021
TOURIST OF THE WEEK
Debutant Smith is the tourist of the week following his composed performance on Saturday. The 22-year-old’s kicking from the tee was impeccable, and as the game opened up he was able to showcase what he brings to the team. His goose step and break from 95 metres out to put Louis Rees-Zammit away for a late try is a sequence that could be seen for many years to come in red of the Lions.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Twitter was flooded with paeans of praise this week following Alun Wyn Jones’ miraculous recovery from his shoulder injury. Comparisons to the Terminator, wrestling’s the Undertaker and Superman were all made, but pundit David Flatman perhaps summed it up better than anyone.
If Alun Wyn Jones plays rugby this weekend then we need a specialist team to investigate if he is indeed the baddie made from mercury in Terminator 2.
— David Flatman (@davidflatman) July 13, 2021
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