It’s important that Lions are ‘able to adapt’
WELLINGTON: The British and Irish Lions are hoping the “chaos” of the training ground will bring about the improvement they need to beat the world champion All Blacks in the three-Test series, backs coach Rob Howley said yesterday.
The Lions face the Blues in their second tour match today and will be desperate to put down a marker after a laboured 13-7 victory over a New Zealand Barbarians side made up largely of semi-professionals last weekend.
Howley, an assistant coach on the last two Lions tours, said the key to the success of the campaign would be in getting the players to the point where they were able to make good decisions on the fly.
“It’s a work in progress,” the Welshman told reporters in Auckland. “While we’re obviously still working on our foundations, we want to have a framework whereby players have the ability to play what’s in front of them.
“Rugby is dictated by speed of ball, by numbers in the defensive line, and it’s important we are able to adapt and play what we see.
“One thing which the players have enjoyed, we call it rugby chaos, 15 against 15, it’s really unstructured. We’re all aware of the pace of the game in the southern hemisphere, and it’s important we get up to speed as quickly (as) possible.”
Howley said it was not just having to play a game four days after landing in New Zealand that had led to such a poor performance in Whangarei, suggesting the wet weather and a couple of other factors had played their parts.
“Sometimes enthusiasm, the excitement of wearing that Lions jersey, sometimes that brings anxiety...,” said the 2001 Lion. “Some of it is down to that and some of it is straightforward unforced errors. And we need to improve on that.”
The Lions, who are aiming to give all 41 members of the squad a chance to play for their place in the Test side, will put out a completely different starting side today at Eden Park.
“We want to be clinical, we want to be relentless in our processes, we want to be ruthless because in a couple of week’s time we’re playing the most ruthless team in world rugby,” Howley said. “We have to keep hold of the ball and put the defence under pressure... It’s obviously going to be a step up, we’re well aware of that.”
Meanwhile, All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams safely came through training yesterday and will line up for the Blues against the Lions today.
Williams has been sidelined with a knee injury and Blues coach Tana Umaga bracketed him with TJ Faiane in his team pending the captain’s run.
“Sonny has come through really well,” Blues assistant coach Alistair Rogers said.
“He came through yesterday pretty good. When he cooled down last night he was feeling really good and he looked very fresh out there this morning.” – Reuters