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'We have spoken': What Lions will do in case of Bulls cancellation

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Lions assistant Steve Tandy has outlined what might happen if next Saturday’s scheduled match versus the Bulls in Pretoria is cancelled following a virus outbreak amongst Jake White’s squad. He also gave an update on the health of Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring and added that Stuart Hogg is an injury doubt to take his place on the Lions bench for this Wednesday’s game versus the Sharks. 

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Henshaw pulled up lame last week with a hamstring issue that Lions boss Warren Gatland assured was a minor strain and that prognosis appeared to be on the money following the update provided by Tandy on Tuesday afternoon from Johannesburg. 

“Robbie is tracking really well. He was doing a little bit of running today, so he is looking good,” said the defence coach, who went on to reveal a concern surrounding Hogg, the full-back who skippered the Lions from full-back in last Saturday’s win over the Sigma Lions just a week after he was just a sub for Exeter’s Gallagher Premiership final loss. 

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Warren Gatland discusses a potential Lions positional switch

Having done well in his Lions appearance in the No15 shirt, Hogg was chosen on Monday amongst the replacements to provide backline cover this Wednesday to a starting XV that has Liam Williams selected at full-back and Dan Biggar as the starting No10. “Stuart is carrying a little bit of a dead leg,” explained Tandy. “We will make a decision on that tomorrow morning and see how he holds up.”

Aside from that injury situation concerning Henshaw and Hogg, the major news coming out of South Africa was that next Saturday’s third Lions game in the southern hemisphere was in jeopardy following some failed virus tests in the Bulls squad. Nothing officially has been said about what will definitely happen, but Tandy admitted that the issue of a possible call-off had been talked about amongst Gatland and his staff.  

“We haven’t confirmed anything but we have spoken. We will travel down to Cape Town over the weekend so we would probably give an extra day off, potentially maybe train a little bit harder on the Friday but again that would be something that we would firm up when we get confirmation around what will happen.

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“There has nothing been confirmed. It hasn’t affected the mood in the camp. The boys trained well this morning [Tuesday] and it’s just about gearing up for tomorrow night (against the Sharks). The focus is on us getting better and improving and building on the last couple of performances. There are a couple of more people making their debuts for the Lions, so it’s exciting times.”

Tandy accepted that the virus issues encountered by the Springboks on Monday, where they had their training closed down, and now with the Bulls had heightened awareness even further amongst the Lions about their own precautions. “Definitely, it’s something we are constantly reminding and trying to have no risk in what we are doing. 

“We are tested three, four times a week and everything is sanitised and everyone is on their best behaviour around that because no one what to jeopardise this tour. We have come here to do a job and we don’t want to leave anything to get in the way of that.”

Cancellation of the Springboks versus Georgia game on Friday and the following day’s Lions versus Bulls match would leave the Georgians and Lions at an expected late loose end. Might that hypothetically be solved by the Lions taking on the Georgians instead and if not, would the loss of a match hinder the Test team selection chances of those players likely to have been facing the Bulls? 

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“Anything is possible through Covid. We have seen that. If there is an opportunity if a game is called off to play a game then that would be great for us and for whoever else is looking for a game,” said Tandy, who also spoke about the possibility of the Lions playing an internal match amongst themselves at some stage if there are any cancellations. 

“It would depend on what point of the tour we are at… we will weigh up whether we feel we can give the boys and an extra day off or whether we feel we need that internal sort of match or maybe a heavier-loaded contact day. As coaches we talk about it but through Covid what you learn is you have to adapt. 

“You could have the best-laid plans to do things but things move really quickly and things can change quickly. It is just being prepared for whatever comes our way at whatever period of time and also just seeing where the group are, whether they need more contact time or if we can give them an extra day off so they can recover. We will just adapt that as we go along.

“It is only as difficult as you make it,” he said about the selection consequences of some players possibly having a game less to impress. “You have to adapt and what will be will be. We see the boys training, how they do in that. We’d like to think everyone would have had a chance to put their name in the hat for the Test series – we are watching these boys every day. With the competition, it is already going to be difficult because the standard in training and around the games is huge so I don’t think it will make too much of a difference.

“Other people will be talking and dealing with that,” he added about speculation that the tour won’t return to Johannesburg as planned after the July 24 first Test in Cape Town and could instead be concluded there with the second and third Tests. “If we end up in Cape Town we will deal with that. If we come back to Johannesburg we are fully prepared for whatever happens.”

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'We have spoken': What Lions will do in case of Bulls cancellation

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