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Rowntree urges Lions to raise the bar

Graham Rowntree has underlined the British and Irish Lions' ambition to raise the performance bar in their clash against Western Force tomorrow.

Four days after blitzing the Barbarians in hot and humid Hong Kong, an entirely-changed team will launch the Lions' nine-game Australian tour schedule.

"I thought we set the bar fairly high on Saturday in difficult conditions," Lions assistant coach Rowntree said. "A lot of our proven guys that have played a lot of games found those conditions harder than anything, harder than altitude or anything like that. In difficult conditions and our first hit-out together, the guys set a high standard, and tomorrow's crew have got to move that bar up again."

He added: "We've said to the guys the first three games everyone gets a start, so after the (Queensland) Reds game (on Saturday) I think we have got to start making some decisions on combinations and having a look at people.

"And certainly by the Waratahs and ACT (Brumbies) games, we need to know who we are going to start with in the (first) Test, but at this point in time there is everything there to play for for everyone."

The Force are not at full strength - they back up the Lions game with a Super Rugby fixture against the Waratahs next Sunday - although their match-day group line-up still contains six Test players.

"We are very respectful of the opposition, but we will worry about getting our detail right and getting our calls and structures up and running. We've got to get combinations going," Rowntree added.

"I think we've got a great group of players - it is an exceptional group."

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