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Warren Gatland and Brian O'Driscoll.
Warren Gatland and Brian O'Driscoll.
Image: AP Photo/Bohdan Warchomij

Lions may get better Test warm-ups in training admits Gatland

The head coach does not want to repeat the mistakes of 2009 when the Lions were caught cold.
Jun 5th 2013, 6:50 PM 3,876 3

PAUL O’CONNELL RECALLS South Africa’s first-half blitzkrieg in the opening Lions Test of 2009 as being ‘caught cold’ while teammate David Wallace admits the side were ‘caught on the hop’.

The grim reality was that the Springboks lay in wait for the tourists after a month playing on hard surfaces against inferior opposition. Following the second 50-plus win in a row, Warren Gatland is determined there will be no repeat of history Down Under.

He told Sky Sports, “You always want to play against stronger sides. If we’re not getting that challenge on-field we’ve got to replicate it in training.”

The Kiwi was part of the coaching staff in 2009 and recognises the need for his troops to be battle-hardened going into the Test Series against Robbie Deans’ Australia. Training sessions over the next two weeks, he declared, would be ‘full-on’.

Gatland, once again, deployed his bench to devastating effect. Western Force were on the receiving end, with Geoff Parling and Owen Farrell both scoring within minutes of coming off the bench. Impact subs and players making a mark for the second games in succession – Conor Murray, George North and Jamie Heaslip – have done little to ease the selection picture. The head coach confessed:

The challenging thing is thinking ‘Who the heck are we going to pick in the starting 15 for the First Test?’”

Western Force captain Matt Hodgson agreed that the star-studded Lions bench made a difference but argued that the Wallabies stood a chance of winning the series. He said, “It’s always tough when they can bring Test-match players off the bench, repeatedly.”

George North and Conor Murray both had fine outings. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Captain Brian O’Driscoll, as usual, did not get carried away with his team’s win. The Irishman, who played in Perth at fullback on the 2001 Lions Tour, said he was ‘relatively pleased’ with today’s victory but admitted there was plenty to work on.

He said, “The boys got off to a good start in Hong Kong on Saturday and we have to keep moving it forward.”

“The bit of brawn we have,” said O’Driscoll, “has been well documented but there was a nice bit of subtlety blended in there.”

*Gatland, speaking in the post-match briefing, confirmed that Rob Kearney was ‘hitting all his markers’ on the road to recovery after a minor hamstring tear. Meanwhile, Force coach Michael Foley does not expect any action to be taken over Brett Sheehan’s allegations of a Cian Healy bite. He remarked that the issue was dealt with on-field by the match officials.

As it happened: Lions v Western Force, 2013 Tour

Biting allegations against Healy but injury may have ended tour early

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Patrick McCarry


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