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British & Irish Lions

Jones: Being named Lions captain for 2021 Tour ‘a huge privilege’

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Photo by Dan Sheridan - Pool/Getty Images

The 35-year-old Wales legend will look to emulate Willie John McBride in 1974 and Martin Johnson in 1997 by leading the tourists to a series victory against the Springboks.

It will be Jones’ fourth consecutive Tour, 12 years after first donning the famous red shirt for the first time in all three Tests of the dramatic 2009 series defeat in South Africa.

Gatland names British & Irish Lions squad for 2021 Tour

He has won a further six caps for the Lions since then, against Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017, with his nine Tests more than any other player in the professional era.

And upon learning Warren Gatland had selected him to be his skipper, Jones reflected on the great players who have previously captained the Lions before him.

“It is a huge privilege to be selected in the squad initially. That is what you want to hear first as a player,” said Jones, who led Wales to the 2021 Six Nations title.

“To have the armband is a privilege in the fact of when you look who has gone before and what they have achieved in this jersey and for their respective home nations.

“I had a call from Gats (Warren Gatland) on Sunday evening, well, a missed call actually. I thought I had better give him a call back. We had a quick chat and I accepted obviously.

“Initially the draw is to get into the squad, and then anything can happen from there and you have your hat in the mix to be selected and obviously having the armband is a huge privilege.

“But initially it was all about the squad selection and I have a huge amount of pride to add this to the CV but there is a lot of work to do and some huge games to face.”

Being selected as Lions captain is the latest honour to be added to Jones’ remarkable CV, which includes five Six Nations titles – three of which were Grand Slams – with Wales.

He also holds the all-time record for the most Test appearances, with 157 during his illustrious 15-year career so far, including the nine consecutive caps won for the tourists.

Gatland explains why he named Alun Wyn Jones as his Lions captain

But South Africa will not be the first time Jones has captained the Lions, with the lock leading the tourists in the decisive third Test win in Sydney against the Wallabies in 2013.

Not being a man prone to self-promotion, Jones admitted he only told his closest inner circle about being awarded the armband again – an achievement steeped in history.

“Obviously [I told] the nearest and dearest, kept it pretty tight on request from Gats for obvious reasons but a lot of these things seem to get out one way or another,” he said.

“I can just tell Gats it was kept tight my end. It is just obviously a hot topic, but it is nice that it is announced now and official.

“As a child growing up, as a supporter and now as a professional, the significance of this honour isn’t lost on me.

“As a rugby player you want to be involved in those Test matches this summer, but there is a long way to go and a lot of rugby to play before then.”

Jones could match fellow Wales and Lions legend Graham Price in South Africa by playing in 12 consecutive Tests and he is well aware of the importance of the tourists.

talkSPORT wins exclusive rights to broadcast Lions Tour

“I think the word that was definitely used in last couple of Tours I have been on is custodianship,” he said, when asked to explain what the Lions means to him.

“Once you become a Lion you might not see people for a while or interact, but you are all connected through the jersey across the home nations.

“That is something very, very special. It is hard to explain but I like to think it is something that hasn’t changed from amateur through to professionalism.

“Growing up you want to play for your country and dream about playing for the Lions.”

But despite finding out he would be leading the Lions in South Africa on Sunday, Jones revealed he had to wait and find out who would be joining him like everybody else.

“It was just a one to one, no other information is passed on,” he said of the call with Gatland. “As a supporter for so long that is what makes it special, finding out who is selected that way.

“Lions is all about the supporters so the fact they find out at the same time as the players it is really special. This is something I’m hugely proud of and passionate about.”

He added: “I want to say a huge thank you to my wife, my sister and my mum, for all their support through all the tough times and particularly the good times.”

Source – British & Irish Lions by Andy Baber

British & Irish Lions

Lions name team to play Japan

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Photo by Dan Sheridan - Pool/Getty Images

British & Irish Lions head coach, Warren Gatland, has named his side to take on Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June (kick off 3pm) for The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup.

16,500 supporters will be welcomed to Scottish Rugby’s national stadium in Edinburgh for the first-ever clash between the Lions and the Brave Blossoms.

The game against the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finalists will be shown live and exclusively on Channel 4 and raises the curtain for the Lions’ eagerly awaited Tour to South Africa, which culminates in a three Test series against Rugby World Cup champions, the Springboks.

“We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that like to play at a high-tempo and shift the ball,” said Gatland.

“We saw throughout the World Cup they have attacking threats across the park and a solid defence and set piece.

“I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made during our training camp in Jersey so far, but we’ve a long way to go. You can see that the squad are starting to get to grips with our game strategies, but, as always with a Lions Tour, this takes time to bed in.

“We’re in a good place though and I can tell there’s a lot more to come from this group.

“Everyone in the squad will get a start before the start of the Test Series, so each member of the squad can put their hand up for Test selection.

“We are absolutely delighted to be playing in front of sixteen thousand supporters in Edinburgh. I’m sure the crowd will give the players an enormous lift before we depart for South Africa on Sunday.”

The Lions’ eight-game Tour to South Africa kicks off on Saturday 3 July when they play the Emirates Lions at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. Three weeks later, Cape Town Stadium will host the opening Test match of the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series – the first Lions Test in the Mother City since 1997. The British and Irish tourists then return to Gauteng and play the second and third Tests at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday 31 July and 8 August respectively.

Starting XV

15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) #808
5. Alun Wyn Jones – Captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland)
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

Replacements:

  1. Jamie George (Saracens, England) #819
  2. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales)
  3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
  4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
  5. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779
  6. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
  7. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780
  8. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816

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British & Irish Lions

Henderson feeling at home already after quickly finding Lions groove

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

But even the Irish lock has been surprised by just how quickly the players who travelled to New Zealand have found their groove again, making four years seem like a matter of days.

Henderson did not make an appearance in the Test team against the All Blacks but wore the famous red jersey on six occasions as he became a regular in the midweek side.

He will be looking to earn his first Test cap against Japan on Saturday and ahead of the much-anticipated fixture, Lion #808 believes the players have benefitted from a smoother build-up.

“I think everyone’s excitement was already building towards the end of the season and you could tell everyone was buzzing to meet up,” the 29-year-old said.

“The training over the last week didn’t disappoint, a lot of lads were chomping at the bit to get out there on the pitch. It was very tough but we got a lot out of it.

“The guys who were there (in New Zealand) four years ago have ‘re-gelled’ really quickly. We have a few different coaches now, but it is very similar.

“At this point on the last Tour, we would be coming together for two or three days, splitting up then coming back together. So it was quite disjointed and didn’t really feel like the Tour had started.

Player Profile: Iain Henderson

“Whereas this time around, on Sunday there was already a definite feel the Tour had started and the journey had begun. Last time 15 were there at the start, but it is around the mid-20s this time.

“A huge majority of the squad have been able to get on-board already, so it’ll be tough for the guys just coming in, but I have no doubt they will catch up quickly.

“I think having everyone here and spending time together, going for dinner, a few pints and getting to know each other is vital to making things click on-and-off the field, which is key to any Lions Tour.”

The Lions face the Brave Blossoms this Saturday, June 26, at BT Murrayfield in front of a crowd of 16,500 fans, in what will be a first home fixture for the team since 2005.

Their first game on South African soil is just seven days later, against Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

Although the success of the class of 2021 won’t be defined in the game against Japan, Henderson insists the squad won’t underestimate the side, who beat both Ireland and Scotland at the last World Cup.

Henderson added: “Everyone is dying to get underway, but at this stage I think everyone is also aligned in their goals, we’re not fighting for the jersey at the minute, we’re working well together.

“For this first game, we know Japan are a huge threat. They have a different style to South Africa, but the level of intensity will be high and it will be a massive test for us.

Furlong: We’re not the finished article yet but it’s an open process

“If we forget about them we’ll find ourselves in a difficult place.”

The Ulster captain is more mature than during the last Tour. He skippered his country for the first time and impressed generally during the Six Nations, a campaign the Irish finished well, with wins over England, Scotland and Italy.

He also won his clubs’ Personality of the Year award, a sign of the positive influence he will have on the Lions group.

High spirits and positive attitudes in the camp will be more important than ever, with the absence of the usual hordes of travelling fans.

Yet Henderson doesn’t think it will affect the mentality of the team when the first Test rolls around.

“Most of us haven’t heard a crowd cheer for well over a year now. So we’re really looking forward to having fans in BT Murrayfield. It will be phenomenal,” the adaptable Irishman added.

“In South Africa it will be different, there is uncertainty about numbers allowed in, if any.

“So this Lions Tour will be different, but the guys who have played in Six Nations and with clubs this season, are well used to dealing with adverse conditions.

“I would hope that anyone who may be affected by this can put it behind them and bring their best rugby on the pitch. We’ve all played with no crowds and the weird atmosphere that brings, so we’ll all be used to it.

“Being here on the last Tour (in New Zealand) makes you a little less nervous, and you slip back in with the guys from then pretty quickly.

“You also know what it is like for a new player, so you can make them feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible, which hopefully helps us on the pitch.”

Source – British & Irish Lions

by Jack Lacey-Hatton

21 June 2021 17:54 Reading Time: 4 mins

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British & Irish Lions

Lions Tour update: Kelleher to train with squad

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MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions have arrived in Jersey to kick off their 2021 Tour.

26 players have assembled in Jersey to begin preparations for The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup game versus Japan on Saturday 26 June (kick off, 3pm).

Ronan Kelleher (Leinster Rugby) will train with the squad this week, but has not been formally added to the 37-man touring squad.

“I’m delighted to welcome Ronan to train with the squad this week while we wait for Jamie George to complete his domestic season with Saracens next weekend,” said Lions head coach Warren Gatland.

Backs (12):

Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales)

Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland)

Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales)

Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales)

Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland)

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland)

Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)

Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales)

Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England)

Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales)

Forwards (14):

Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland)

Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)

Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales)

Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland)

Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales)

Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales)

Ronan Kelleher (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England)

Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales)

Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)

Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales)

Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)

Source – British & Irish Lions

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