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'They've failed miserably' - Lions tactics have flopped claims ex-tour manager

By Ian Cameron

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Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions tactics have failed in South Africa, despite management knowing what they would face by way of the Springbok gameplan, argues former tour manager Donal Lenihan.


Lenihan says that the Lions’ inability to deal with the Springboks’ blitz defence and their kicking game reflects badly on the strategic thinking of management, not least because of the lack of secrecy around the South African’s own tactics.

‘There’s three ways [you try to beat a blitz defence]; you try get outside it, you try to go through it or you try to go over it,” Lenihan said, speaking on RTE’s Rugby Podcast.

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“There is space behind that blitz defence that the Lions haven’t been able to exploit at all. We’ve seen the disallowed try by Robbie Henshaw had last week. That’s a perfect example of the space that is behind. Those grubber kicks, there’s an opportunity there to break that defensive system.

“In some ways, you look back at the provincial games, they were scoring tries for fun. It was almost too easy. They were breaking down defences after two or three phases.

“That bore no resemblance to way South Africa play. They found themselves in the middle of an arm wrestle, that they haven’t been able to win. And they haven’t produced an alternative, which I think will be an indictment of this coaching staff when this whole series is over.

“Without any in-depth analysis, you knew exactly what the Springboks were going to present to you before came out here and nothing has changed. They have failed miserably in trying to deal with that.


“To date in the two Tests, the Lions have scored one try. Cowan-Dickie off a 10-metre lineout maul. That’s been it.”

The former second row, who toured twice with the Lions, sees the Lions’ midfield as possibly the Lions greatest concern as a unit.

“There’s been consistency with nine selections during the Test series. In other words, nine players will be starting their third Test.


“Five of those nine have been in the back five [of the pack]. The second row and back row have been constant throughout the series.

“But we now have our third different centre combination. Which shows you they don’t know what their best combination is.

“They’ve reverted to the two of the back three that everyone felt should have started in the first Test anyway. But they don’t seem to have the capacity to challenge that blitz defence.”


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