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No time for Lions selfpity as they get on the road to

first_img Murray Kinsella reports from AucklandTHERE IS LITTLE rest on a Lions tour and Warren Gatland’s men get back on the road on Thursday, with Christchurch their destination after a short stay in Auckland ended with defeat to the Blues on Wednesday night.There is no time for self-pity on the Lions’ part, with their Thursday travel bringing them to the home of the best Kiwi Super Rugby side, Scott Robertson’s unbeaten Crusaders. The Blues grabbed a late victory through Ihaia West’s try. Source: Photosport/Peter Meecham/INPHOThe Lions couldn’t beat the worst of New Zealand’s franchises on Wednesday night at Eden Park, when Tana Umaga’s side underlined just how difficult this tour of New Zealand is going to be.“It’s tough,” said Umaga after his team’s 22-16 win, before neatly summing up the Lions’ challenge.“You have to think about pulling a team together in a short amount of time from all of these different countries with different playing styles and then jump off a plane, three days later you play one game; five, six days later you’ve another one.“It’s just pretty relentless.”Indeed it is and Gatland’s strength in bringing together a group will be tested in the extreme in the coming days, with the Crusaders certainly eager to pile more pain on top of the Lions in Christchurch.The Lions are then down to Dunedin on Sunday for a clash with the Highlanders on Tuesday, while a strong Māori All Blacks side will be waiting in Rotorua thereafter. There is little let-up in this brutal schedule.“The other side of it, they get quality tests in terms of what they want to do when they get into the Test arena,” said Umaga in balancing his point.“I don’t think you can discount that. It’s a tough tour for them, they know that, but I’m sure they’ve targeted certain games that they really want to focus on, the Tests I’d say, and if they get success in the Tests then I’m sure everyone will forget how they went when we beat them.” Williams was sin binned for an aerial challenge. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHOThat may be the case, but the Lions have to do a fair bit of forgetting in a shorter space of time.Warren Gatland’s players will, of course, go through detailed analysis of their defeat to the Blues and reflect on what went wrong and what went right in Auckland, but they have to constantly look forward on this tour.With another game in three days’ time, there is no space for wallowing in regret and letting heads drop.“There’s not much time to dwell on it because we’re going to Christchurch tomorrow,” said Irish prop Jack McGrath after the loss. “It’s a lot of sore bodies and we’re frustrated, but there’s not much time to dwell. We’ll travel tomorrow and we’ll kick on.“It’s frustrating and hopefully we can bring that bit of frustration out on Saturday. You have to remember we’ve only been here a week and I think we’re building nicely as a squad. A few of the calls go the other way and it’s a different game.”It is the case that fortune favoured the Blues at times on Wednesday night, but it’s also fair to say that they were the more skillful, clinical and incisive team too.Particularly effective was Umaga’s side’s offloading ability, with Sonny Bill Williams leading the way. Steven Luatua impressed in this department too, with the Blues out-offloading the Lions 14-4 overall.Luatua and Williams both offloaded beautifully for the winning try from Ihaia West and there didn’t seem to be an obvious answer as to how the Lions could have stopped those passes out of contact. Williams’ offload was crucial on Wednesday night. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHOWhen Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny was asked what his side could do better in similar instances in the future, he paused for some seconds before expressing his admiration for Williams’ abilities.“It was a great bit of skill to get the offload.”It’s definitely one area where the Lions will have further worries in the coming weeks, with so many players in New Zealand being so capable of throwing an accurate offload.“It’s something that’s really prevalent around our country and in our team,” said Umaga. “We want to keep the ball alive and get that second phase play going and get in behind teams.“If you can’t stop that, it’s very, very difficult when you’re going backwards all the time. The ability to try and stop those offloads [is important] and you’d have to think that for about 70 minutes they were able to do that.“We did chuck some to the ground when trying to keep the ball alive, but for 80 minutes we keep backing ourselves. We have confidence in what we want to do and we keep backing ourselves to play our game. And we get the rewards for it.“It’s not just willy-nilly all the time, we keep backing each other up and making sure you get a bit of [support on the] shoulder.”While the Blues’ skills played a major role in deciding the outcome at Eden Park, the Lions’ concession of 15 penalties was disastrous. Rory Best at the final whistle in Eden Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHOHaving given up 12 to the Provincial Barbarians, this is already a big area of concern for the Lions and they simply must find their discipline against the Crusaders or they will lose again.“There were a lot of positives and things to improve on defensively but the other big message from Andy Farrell to the players was the penalty count and penalties that were avoidable,” said Gatland after the Lions’ defeat to the Blues.“In the first two games we have been a bit soft in that area and we have to be hard on ourselves as players and coaches to make sure we definitely tighten up on that because it is causing us issues and hopefully we’ll see a big improvement on that on Saturday.”As the Lions leave Auckland, Steve Hansen will name his 33-man All Blacks squad for the Lions Test series tomorrow and he has a few worries of his own.Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles is a major doubt to feature in the Tests, after his club coach John Plumtree said the progress with Coles’ concussion problems has not been satisfactory.Ryan Crotty is carrying a rib cartilage injury and may miss the first Test even if he is named in the squad, while Brodie Retallick is a concern with concussion, the same issue that has also been affecting Highlanders fullback Ben Smith.The expectation in New Zealand is that 20-year-old Hurricane Jordie Barrett – younger brother of Beauden – will be the headline-making selection in Hansen’s squad, although surprises are likely to be thin on the ground.“I’m not really worried about them at the moment, we’re concentrating on ourselves,” said Gatland. “It’ll be interesting to see what squad they pick. There’s so much depth and quality in New Zealand and it’ll be interesting to see what sort of squad they pick.” Hansen names his squad on Thursday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHOThe Lions’ focus is purely on the Crusaders this weekend, and they can welcome in a core of players who have yet to start on this tour in Conor Murray, Jonathan Davies, George North, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, Liam Williams, Mako Vunipola, George Kruis, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and Owen Farrell.With Dan Biggar having failed a HIA and Johnny Sexton not at his best yet, Farrell’s introduction to the XV will be particularly important, and not just because the other two out-halves are struggling.Farrell is one of the best players in this Lions squad and with a fine group around him for Saturday’s contest, Gatland will have belief that his team can inject some momentum into this tour.If they fail to do so, the party looks like it could be over before anyone even really arrived.The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us! Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article Short URL Follow us: the42.ie Connacht announce signing of Irish-qualified scrum-half from Sale‘I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the Super Rugby sides and All Blacks’ 20 Comments Wednesday 7 Jun 2017, 8:00 PM Share10 Tweet Email1 Jun 7th 2017, 8:00 PM https://the42.ie/3431787 No time for Lions self-pity as they get on the road to Christchurch Warren Gatland’s squad face the best Kiwi Super Rugby side on Saturday. 23,773 Views By Murray Kinsellalast_img read more

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