Wednesday, June 29

Lions Tour presents a new hurdle with Siya Kolisi among six Springboks who tested positive for British and Irish Lions


The British and Irish Lions have traded the harsh landscape of Highveld for the spectacular Western Cape, but on this tour that simply means looking at the wall of a different hotel room. The latest Covid-19 news from the South African camp, where its World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi is among a new group of players who tested positive, is a reminder that the resumption of normal service is still a distant dream.

With Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber still in isolation, Rassie Erasmus is once again in temporary charge of the day-to-day running of a team that has recorded another nine positive coronavirus cases, six players and three staff members. Further interruptions cannot be ruled out, but a sizeable part of the team has at least been cleared to resume training after being confined to their rooms since last Monday.

With the first test taking place on Saturday of the week, there is very little room for maneuver available to any team of coaches in distress. Each Lions tour involves frantically placing key pieces of the track before a rapidly approaching steam train, the Test series, rings off the bend and Warren Gatland’s work is further complicated by the dauntingly one-sided nature of heating accessories.

Last week may come to be remembered as the time when the entire foundation of the traditional provincial Lions games jumped the shark. In the wake of Saturday’s 71-31 win over the franchise that already beat 54-7 on Wednesday, it is increasingly possible to argue that, in terms of meaningful preparation, the Lions would be better off taking on local unions or will act against it. Training games at home behind closed doors.

Warren Gatland at the Sharks v Lions game on July 7
Warren Gatland’s end-of-tour report could be a lively read. Photography: David Gibson / Fotosport / Rex / Shutterstock

Gatland’s end-of-tour report already has the makings of an animated read, as the eight-game format has further undermined the supposedly sacred concept that players can fight their way to the Trial side by impressing against opposition. decent local. In fairness to the Sharks, they raised a few physical questions in the first half on Saturday, but the Lions would still have won with a little to spare even without the 45-minute red card for Jaden Hendrikse.

Despite Duhan van der Merwe’s strong run and fellow winger Anthony Watson buzzing, the most significant event of the day was the call-up of Harlequins’ Marcus Smith as cover for Finn Russell who, if they miss five days on a boot surgical To make matters better, your tour may end prematurely because of a damaged Achilles tendon.

While the opening test was always unlikely to begin, Russell gave the Lions a dash of something different and challenged his teammates of 10, Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell, to improve their own games. Now, despite all the attacking skills that have recently seen Smith conjure up a Premiership title for Harlequins and collect the first of many internationals for England, it is now a certainty that Biggar and Farrell, fitness permitting. , they will participate in the first Test 23.

The more you look at it, the more it feels like a dozen positions in Gatland’s starting XV are pretty well established already. Among the running backs, Liam Williams on the wing, Watson and Josh Adams on the wings, Robbie Henshaw in the center and the captain, Conor Murray, in the scrum half, will have to move. A hard core of seven forwards – Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tadhg Beirne, Tom Curry and Taulupe Faletau – should be virtually there as well.

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That probably leaves three places (midfielder, center, and loose head strut) to be filled, along with the bench. It’s still possible for Biggar, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly and Mako Vunipola to make an appearance, but Farrell’s name will be back in the mix at 10 or 12, while Chris Harris, with a Scottish defensive sound, continues to show why Gatland will. elected. Scotsman Rory Sutherland’s profile is also rising, unless Wyn Jones puts in a colossal performance at auditions final this week.

Otherwise, the mainstay of Wales plus Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny Hill, Hamish Watson, Ali Price and Daly will all be hoping to be recognized in the bank, assuming the Covid curse can be dodged. This is a singularly strange and mentally demanding tour, but a Lions Test jersey never loses its shine.


www.theguardian.com

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