Lions leaving no stone unturned
Graham Rowntree has revealed the intense detail that is underpinning the British and Irish Lions' Test team selection for next week's series opener against Australia in Brisbane.
The Lions play their penultimate warm-up game on Saturday before tackling the Wallabies, with New South Wales Waratahs providing the opposition at Allianz Stadium. It will be an opportunity for players to stake another claim as the countdown continues towards next Thursday's team announcement.
Asked if the selection process had been ongoing since the tour opener against the Barbarians in Hong Kong two weeks ago, Lions assistant coach Rowntree said: "We have been doing that since the very first training session at the Vale of Glamorgan (last month)."
Rowntree went on: "We watch how the guys are in the environment, who the diligent ones are, watching the computer, who are the ones learning the calls. We watch training videos back, see how the body language is. We are watching them 24/7. I must say I have been very impressed. They are everything I expected. They have all been very professional."
The possible Lions Test pack - Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, Sam Warburton and Jamie Heaslip - will be in action on Saturday, along with probable Test half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Mike Phillips.
But the coaching staff have maintained throughout they will not begin making definitive Test team decisions until after Tuesday's clash against the Brumbies in Canberra.
"It will be tough tomorrow - this fixture 12 years ago was fairly tough," Rowntree added.
"It is our next game with new combinations. Guys have really got to take their opportunities because we are watching, in training as well.
"We got a good test last week (against Queensland Reds). Crikey, they ran us ragged. I am sure the Waratahs will give us another work-out. It wasn't an 80-minute performance last Saturday and we have certainly looked at that in review. The third quarter was littered with errors which really broke our stride."
For their part, the Waratahs are without several players away with the Wallabies for pre-Test series training, but skipper Dave Dennis and centre Rob Horne have been released back to play in the fixture.