Conor Murray has been endorsed to do “an incredible job” in his new role as captain of the British & Irish Lions as the touring team seeks to overcome the untimely loss of their injured totem Alun Wyn Jones.
English hooker Jamie George says the entire team believes Warren Gatland has made a canny decision as the Lions prepare for their first provincial game on South African soil in Johannesburg this Saturday.
As a fellow tourist in New Zealand four years ago, George is already aware of Murray’s qualities and says that the team’s widespread respect for the scrum half made him the ideal candidate to replace Jones, who dislocated a shoulder against Japan. in Murrayfield last Saturday. .
“He will have the full backing of the team because of the amount of respect he has accumulated over the years,” said George, who started all three events in New Zealand four years ago. “Character-wise, I can’t speak highly enough of him. He is an incredibly popular member of the group, someone who always has an arm around you, keeping an eye on you. I think it’s a great sign of a good leader.
“I imagine he won’t be as vocal as the previous captains I’ve worked with, but golden moments come to him, not just from a technical standpoint but also from a mentality standpoint. He is the type of person that when he speaks people listen. That’s a great trait of a captain. I think he deserves it. He is on his third tour, has a lot of experience and is highly respected by all the players. I’m very happy for him and I think he’s going to do an incredible job. “
However, there will be little time for the 32-year-old to sit back and enjoy the warm glow of his unexpected rise. As the strong Springbok team named to face Georgia on Friday underscores, the Lions will have to try harder to win the Test series and can expect a particularly tough assignment early on.
“Every time you face South Africa, the play will be absolutely huge,” George said. “It is something that we as Lions should be proud of to move this team forward. Whichever eight forwards represent the team this weekend, it will be a great focus for us. “
Nor can one avoid the continued uncertainty caused by rising rates of Covid-19 infection in southern Africa, particularly in Gauteng province, where the Lions must play their first three games. An official announcement has yet to be made, but the growing expectation is that all remaining games, including the three tests, will now take place in Cape Town.
Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde says none of the team members have “any illusions” as to the seriousness of the health situation in South Africa, but stressed that the team is determined to make the best of things. . “Everyone realizes how lucky we are to go ahead and try to make people smile. We all have to move on. The gravity of the situation does not allow you to explore other avenues. “
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber, and at least two team members who tested positive for Covid, has been forced to omit two other isolating players, wing Makazole Mapimpi and center Lukhanyo Am, from his team to face. to Georgia, but still confident the tour will be able to continue.
“I don’t see that the tour is in jeopardy,” Nienaber said. “There are good protocols and we make sure we follow them to make sure the team is safe.”
Nienaber’s side to face Georgia features two rookies at wingers Rosko Specman and Aphelele Fassi, with Leicester forward Jasper Wiese, who has not been called up, also on the bench.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism