June International Tours

Lions looking to cut out the mistakes: Edwards



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Shaun Edwards is striving to cut out the defensive mistakes that led the British and Irish Lions to concede three tries in their opening tour match, knowing similar blunders will cost them against world champion South Africa.

The Lions beat a Royal XV 37-25 after trailing by 12 points with 15 minutes to go on Saturday and defense coach Edwards said on Tuesday the squad had been working to try and make sure there will be no repeat of the errors against the Golden Lions in their second match at Ellis Park on Wednesday.

“We went a bit pear-shaped,” he told reporters. “We have worked pretty hard on certain aspects of our defense. We hope to be on the money Wednesday night because we need to be.”

“Obviously you’re not going to win a major series if you’re letting in three tries against the Springboks.”

Edwards, a former rugby league star and coach who was one of the assistant coaches for Wales, said he had run into South African fans who had tried to undermine his influence on the team.

“South African people have said, ‘What do you do?’ and I said ‘I’m the defense coach.’ And a few said ‘good luck,’ which of course adds a little bit more motivation to me.”

A Lions squad weakened by injury and suspension is widely expected to lose to the South Africans in the three tests at Durban (June 20), Pretoria (June 27) and Johannesburg (July 4).

The squad does not have the same quality as the side that beat the Springboks 2-1 the last time it toured here in 1997.

Edwards, who was working alongside Warren Gatland and Rob Howley under head coach Ian McGeechan, said Saturday’s lineup at Rustenberg had some excuse for its inept first 60 minutes as the team had little time to get used to the altitude.

“By the time of Wednesday’s game, we have been at altitude for nine days and I have been told that, after eight days, you should be feeling a bit more comfortable,” he said.

“We can’t go into this game with any excuses. We need to put a marker down and play for the full 80 minutes. I thought that for the last 20 minutes on Saturday we played very well and showed a lot of spirit.

“But we have to do that for 80 minutes because, if we have any chance against the Springboks, you can’t have any lapses.”

Wednesday’s team will be led by Brian O’Driscoll, the captain of Ireland’s first team to win a championship for 24 years and first Grand Slam since 1948.

Former England captain Phil Vickery and Gethin Jenkins will be in the front row behind a Welsh halfback pairing of Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones.

“The first couple of games are always going to be a bit tricky,” said Lions debutant Phillips.

“It’s about bedding in and getting to know each other off the field. There’s a great spirit in the camp and we have got to deliver it now on the pitch.”

Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny arrived in South Africa to team up with the Lions after staying behind to recover from a thigh injury.

But he has not made the starting lineup against the Golden Lions, as Ireland’s Tommy Bowe and England’s Ugo Monye are on the flanks.

— Lineups:

Golden Lions:

Louis Ludik, Michael Killian, Jannie Boshoff, Doppies la Grange, Dusty Noble, Andre Pretorius, Jano Vermaak, Willem Alberts, Franco van der Merwe, Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), Willem Stoltz, Brad Mockford, Gert Muller, Willie Wepener, Lawrence Sephaka. Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, JC Janse Van Rensburg, Ernst Joubert, Todd Clever, Chris Jonck, Walter Venter, Earl Rose.

British and Irish Lions:

Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian ODriscoll (captain), Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips, Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Tom Croft, Alun-Wyn Jones, Nathan Hines, Phil Vickery, Lee Mears, Gethin Jenkins. Replacements: Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Stephen Ferris, Andy Powell, Harry Ellis, James

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