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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 20 April 2021
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Lions 'ready to play' after added pressure of open day

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree noted that the extra eyes scrutinising his pack’s line-out is exactly what the squad needs.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

DAY TWO OF the British and Irish Lions’ stop in Maynooth and they’re already feeling the benefits.

The squad’s afternoon was filled with an open training session, with Donegal captain Michael Murphy among the hundreds of Irish spectators who came along to see how the best-funded team in world rugby.

With the sun beating down and many eyes scrutinising every move, forwards coach Graham Rowntree admits the change-up brings some added challenges to the training routine.

“We’re lucky,” Rowntree says without equivocation. “To have people like that on a Tuesday afternoon. The lads get a buzz out of it.

“It puts a bit of pressure on them. It puts pressure on the line-out throw; there was a couple we got wrong with that added pressure. It’s the first time we’ve had that in training so far.

“The more support we can get like that the better. I’m hoping we’ll get a few more thousands than that. But our first proper hit-out to have everyone come and watch was nice.”

With the countdown to take-off continuing unabated, Rowntree was sure not to look a gift-horse in the mouth discussing potential injuries.

Hard work

“Give it time, mate” He said after it was pointed out that relatively minor knocks to Sean O’Brien and Brian O’Driscoll meant this Lions set-up had been more fortunate than previous tours.

“Fingers crossed. We’ve been very lucky so far on the back of some hard work we’ve trained very intensely for the right period of time.”

Those short-sharp sessions, a trademark of Warren Gatland’s Wales who provide all-but eight of the players in camp at Carton House this week.

“I’ve seen [the Welsh players] in the gym,” Rowntree says of the dominant nation in the squad and this year’s Six Nations. “They’re very impressive physically and I’ve been very impressed by their strength. Particularly the forwards, though the backs aren’t that small either to be fair.”

The Welsh contingent understandably protests that anyone in this camp is flying under on flag. And that mission statement has been laid down to every player in no uncertain terms.

“One thing we had to get right on this trip was the off-the-field atmosphere and the culture.” Continues the forwards coach.

“Gats has got that firmly created with the lads. He’s set out his stall there. He wants everyone to have a good time, but work hard and we respect each other and they’re all doing that very well.”

“We’re very excited. The guys have trained really well, coming together very quickly.

“We’ve had nearly 9/10 days good training. We’ve worked them hard as well. Got a lot of good detail done. We’re pretty much ready to play in many areas of the game. So it is pretty exciting.”

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Sean Farrell

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