Woodward ready to get tough

Sir Clive Woodward's softly, softly approach to training is over. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Sir Clive Woodward’s softly, softly approach to training is over.

After Saturday’s 19-13 defeat to the New Zealand Maori, the British & Irish Lions head coach will crank up the intensity to ensure his players are battle-hardened heading into the first Test against the All Blacks.

Woodward has been determined not to exhaust his squad with a relentless training schedule.

Only last week, defence guru Mike Ford revealed Woodward had instructed his coaching staff to ease back on the bruising sessions after Jonny Wilkinson and Shane Byrne both picked up minor knocks.

But the Lions were so out-muscled at the breakdown by a very competitive Maori side that Woodward is beginning to revise his opinion.

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"I’ve been very keen to keep everyone fresh, but maybe we need to up the ante in training," said Woodward.

"Maybe we have been a little bit lacking in the amount of contact work we have been doing. As we get closer to the Test matches, we need to stop making excuses.

"The New Zealand team had a game against Fiji (which they won 91-0), but it was no more than a training run. We can arrive a little more match-hardened than the New Zealand team.

"We need to make sure the starting XV arrive at that game without picking up any more injuries. We will do things on the training ground properly, which I always believe is as important as the game situation."

The referees’ interpretations of the breakdown contest has been a constant theme running through this tour, and the Lions know they must get to grips with how it is policed.

Marty Holah and Jono Gibbes, the Maori flankers, squeezed the life out of the Lions on Saturday and gave openside Martyn Williams a torrid time.

The Lions did not commit enough bodies to the breakdown and did not hit the tackle area with enough aggression.

"You have to accept defeat. It has happened before on Lions tours, and you just take it on the chin and learn from it,’ said Woodward.

"We are getting near the sharp end of the tour; we have to learn the right lessons – and the biggest thing is the breakdown, whether it is the technique or that we are not getting the numbers there.

"Neil Back will start on Wednesday against Wellington, and we’ll see how he stacks up with all this going on."

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