Belfast Telegraph

I owe Gatland a big performance, insists Joseph as he bids to stake claim

 

By Nick Purewal

Jonathan Joseph has admitted he must repay Warren Gatland's faith for insisting the England centre tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.

Bath star Joseph was an 11th-hour inclusion in the Lions' 41-man touring party for the three-Test All Blacks trip after head coach Gatland demanded his addition in last-minute selection meetings.

The 26-year-old battled through the fog of jet-lag as the Lions won their tour opener 13-7 over the Provincial Barbarians - but will be at full throttle for Tuesday's Highlanders clash in Dunedin.

And the 33-cap centre confirmed he is now out to vindicate Gatland's decision to bring him on tour ahead of the likes of Ireland's Garry Ringrose.

Asked if it is time to repay Lions boss Gatland, Joseph replied: "Yeah for sure, I owe him a lot.

"I want to prove myself on the big stage and there's no better place to do it.

"I'm up for the challenge and I'll do everything I can to put in a good performance.

"If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but I have to give myself the best shot."

Lions defence coach Andy Farrell expects a huge battle for the Test match outside centre role, with Jonathan Davies already in strong form.

Joseph has another chance to impress on Tuesday after a mixed opener in Whangarei - and is desperate to strike back to his best.

"Obviously it's going to be down to Gats (Gatland) at the end of the day," said Joseph of the centre selection fight.

"There are people who are playing very well and that's what these games are for; to put your best foot forward. That's what certain individuals are doing and that's what I'm going to try to do with the opportunity to play in this game. It gives me a great chance to try to do that."

The Lions hit back from a 22-16 defeat to the Blues with Saturday's impressive 12-3 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Joseph believes now the full squad is settled into the New Zealand rhythm, a host of players who underperformed against the Barbarians can reach their peak.

"The first game wasn't an ideal situation, but that's part and parcel of being on this tour," said Joseph. "It's going to be tough throughout but I feel fresh now and have a good two weeks under my belt in terms of training.

"You are not completely ready (when jet-lagged). We are professional players and we take our preparation very seriously.

"Usually, every single player would get a week's preparation for each game, but we were three days after a long flight going into that game. We are all fully ready, we know what to expect and we know what we're going to bring as well."

He added: "It was a job that needed to be done. It wasn't pretty and there were a lot of mistakes, we weren't clinical, but at the same time we got a win under our belts in New Zealand.

"Now it's about getting better and building some momentum after the boys did fantastically well against the Crusaders. It is up to us now to keep it going."

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