Lions public training a roaring success

Thousands of fans turned out to see the British & Irish Lions' public training session in Auckland on Tuesday morning. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Thousands of fans turned out to see the British & Irish Lions’ public training session in Auckland on Tuesday morning.

Organisers estimated more than 5,000 schoolchildren, local rugby players, office workers and fans filled the North Harbour Stadium to see the tourists put through their paces ahead of their first game against Bay of Plenty on Saturday.

Head coach Sir Clive Woodward declared the get-together a success.

"Thanks to all those who attended," he said. "There was a great atmosphere in the stadium and the players and coaches really enjoyed the session, as well as the opportunity to get out there and meet the New Zealand public.

"Rugby is such an important part of the heritage of New Zealand. That is why we wanted to do something different and give the public the opportunity to see the Lions in their preparations for their first game versus the Bay of Plenty."

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Captain Brian O’Driscoll, who spent time signing autographs and chatting to fans afterwards, was among the 40 players from the 45-man squad present at the session.

He said: "Given it is 12 years since the Lions were last in New Zealand, this was an opportunity to show a whole new generation the 2005 Lions in action.

"The crowd were fantastic and the lads were delighted with the reception. It has to be one of the biggest crowds I have ever trained in front of and it was nice to do this in New Zealand where people really understand and appreciate the sport.

"It has really helped build up the sense of excitement and anticipation ahead of our first game on Saturday."

Lawrence Dallaglio added: "It was fantastic to see so many people come out and watch us train. The reception was brilliant. Obviously we are here to play rugby but we also want to get out and meet people and talk about the game.

"The Argentina game was difficult but since then we have had a lot of good time together and we now just want to get out and play."

The Lions now turn their attentions fully to Saturday’s encounter and Dallaglio is under no illusions about how tough the game will be.

He said: "We are now absolutely focused on the Bay of Plenty game. I know a fair amount about them because at London Wasps there is a New Zealand contingent and we are expecting a tough and physical encounter.

"They know this will be their one chance to do something special against us, so we have to be well prepared."

Dwayne Peel said the fierce competition for places in the squad had not affected camaraderie among the players.

"Every one of the 45 players would die to play in the Test team but even with the competition, the spirit in the camp is tremendous," the Welshman said.

"Clive has made clear that everyone will get their chance to play games, so when that chance comes along you have to take it.

"We have had quite a lot of time together and now it’s about getting out on the pitch and looking forward to the Bay of Plenty game."

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