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Plenty to work on despite big opening win: Gatland

Lions 14 British & Irish Lions 56


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Touchdown: British & Irish Lions’ Josh Adams scores a try. Credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Touchdown: British & Irish Lions’ Josh Adams scores a try. Credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Touchdown: British & Irish Lions’ Josh Adams scores a try. Credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has insisted it is still too early to give too much thought to his Test side to face the Springboks later this month.

The Lions dismantled their South African namesakes in Johannesburg on Saturday evening in a performance noteworthy both for Josh Adams crossing for four tries and Hamish Watson’s all-action display in the back-row.

Having always said that every member of his squad would see a start in the tour’s first three games though, the three-time tourist isn’t putting too much stock in these early showings.

"We’re not really, at the moment, trying to predict what a Test side looks like,” he said. “We’re trying to let that unfold and see how the players keep performing, playing, how the combinations work.

“Then, we’ll start looking at our options. We definitely don’t want to pigeonhole anyone.

“We’re keeping an open mind about how we play and how we keep improving.

"“The players who haven’t started will start on Wednesday.

“The non-23 had a tough hit out (Saturday) morning with some fitness and skill work. We’re trying to get everyone on the same cycle. (We’ve) Monday training and then the captain’s run, so it’s a very short turnaround.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with the players, their attitude and how they have been preparing with their own walk throughs and time on the laptops. It’s good for everyone to have a start in the first three games, so we’ll probably still be a little bit rusty with making so any changes, but we’ll see how we go on Wednesday.”

In assessing Saturday’s performance, Gatland was pleased despite the limited nature of the opposition but knows that given the hurried nature of the tour that his side are still building combinations and will have to grow into the tour as it progresses.

"The positive thing is that there’s still lots of things to work on,” he said. “We’ve been getting better and better as a squad the more time we spend together. We made 14 changes.

“We put down bit of a marker but we know as a group that as a group we won’t be 100 percent satisfied until we show lots of improvements, bu t we feel we can get there and make lots of improvements too.”

Meanwhile, Gatland confirmed that Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw will play no part in Wednesday’s next fixture against the Sharks and could well miss more time after that.

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“He’s got a very, very mild hamstring strain. He definitely won’t be considered for next Wednesday, then we’ll just assess his progress,” he added.

“We won’t push him if we don’t have to. It may be a couple of games, we just want to make sure he’s 100 per cent right because there’s no doubt he’s been one of the standout players in the Six Nations and the way he’s been playing - we’d like to get him back to full fitness without putting him under any pressure and be able to give him a couple of games before we start considering the Test side.”

Sigma Lions: EW VViljoen; J Ulengo, M Rass, B Odendaal (F Zeilinga 59), S Maxwane; J Hendrikse (D Kriel 67), D Smit (M van den Berg 39-ht, 57)); N McBeth (S Sithole 57), PJ Botha (J Visagie 57), R Dreyer (C Sadie 57); R Schoeman, R Nothnagel (E Tschituke 72); S Sangweni (R Straeuli 66), V Tshituka, F Horn (capt).

British and Irish Lions: S Hogg; L Rees-Zammit, C Harris (B Aki 70), O Farrell, J Adams; F Russell (E Daly 61), A Price (G Davies 60); W Jones (M Vunipola 57), J George (L Cowan-Dickie 70), K Sinckler (Z Fagerson 57); M Itoje (I Henderson 70), J Hill; C Lawes, T Faletau (S Simmonds 58), H Watson.

Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU)

Man of the match: H Watson (SCO)

Match rating: 5/10


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