The Saracens contingent arriving in Jersey.
fresh faces

Saracens players and Russell land as Kelleher continues to impress the Lions

The 23-year-old Ireland hooker will remain with the Lions in Jersey this week.

THE LIONS HAVE welcomed their five Saracens players and Scotland out-half Finn Russell into camp today as they continue their preparations for their first game against Japan in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, and Jamie George have arrived in Jersey after helping Saracens to seal promotion back into the Premiership with victory in their Championship final second leg against Ealing yesterday.

Racing 92 out-half Russell has also joined Warren Gatland’s squad after his club were defeated by La Rochelle in the Top 14 semi-finals on Friday. It means that Gatland has now welcomed everyone except the four-man Exeter contingent into Lions camp.

Today’s six new arrivals in will quarantine until they have received a negative result from their PCR tests for Covid-19. It is not expected that they will feature in this weekend’s clash with Japan, although hooker George may play given that Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie remains on club duty for the Premiership final on Saturday.

Lions assistant coach Steve Tandy says they have no concerns about the Saracens players’ readiness for the tour to South Africa despite having played in the Championship this season.

“They’ve enjoyed playing and having a bit of rhythm coming into it,” said Tandy. “I have no doubt that the boys will be physically prepared because they played in the Six Nations as well so there’s no doubting those boys will be ready to do.

“They’ve got experiences from previous Lions tours, winning European Cups, winning Premierships. These boys have done it at the highest level, they know what it takes and they know what connects the group.

“Everyone’s really excited to get them back on the training field and fully immersed in the group.”

ronan-kelleher Kelleher has remained in Lions camp this week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s Rónan Kelleher has been training with the Lions over the last week due to the unavailability of English pair George and Cowan-Dickie, with the Leinster man joining Wales’ Ken Owens in camp.

Kelleher has not been formally added to the 37-man Lions squad but he will remain with Gatland’s group this week too as George gets up to speed.

23-year-old Kelleher has made a strong impression on Gatland and his coaching team, who hope he will benefit from the experience.

“He has been absolutely brilliant coming in,” said Tandy. “He has really bought into it. 

“I know it might be tough for him leaving but having 24 hours, a week, or 10 days in a Lions environment, I’m sure you learn loads by being part of it.

“It shows you where you need to get to but he has been outstanding. We’re very, very impressed with how he goes about his business. He’s a great kid and actually really impressive on the training field too.”

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