View from the front

Following the Lions' 37-25 win over the Royal XV in the opening fixture of their 10-match tour, we round up the thoughts of those closest to the action... [more]

View from the front

Following the Lions’ 37-25 win over the Royal XV in the opening fixture of their 10-match tour, we round up the thoughts of those closest to the action…

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan

“You have to give the players time and you have to realise how big an occasion it is when you pull on the Lions jersey for the first time. It is a matter of being patient.

“There is no doubt that 14 turnovers in the first half was something that upset us, but we controlled the ball much better in the second half.

“I thought our back three collected the high balls well and we used that possession quite positively. Lee Byrne was very good at the back and coped with the extra distance you get on the ball at altitude.”

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Lions captain Paul O’Connell

“It was very scrappy and I don’t think we will make the same mistakes again. But it was our first game after only being here for six days, so we are delighted to get the win.
“There are no easy games on a tour like this and it was a once in 12-year opportunity for the Royal XV players to play against the Lions. They certainly made the most of it and gave it their all.

“The errors took away our momentum and any chance we had of developing our game in the first half. Every time we turned over the ball they sent us back down the pitch.

“The problem is that every turn over a team gains helps them to grow bigger and stronger – that’s what happened to the Royal XV.

“The enthusiasm for this game from the players shocked me during the week and I think, in the end, that enthusiasm got the better of us.

“The first-half was harder than the second. Once we got used to the conditions we were more comfortable and competitive.

“We felt more powerful in the second half. It is a big step for us to get used to conditions like these after only six days in the country.”

Lions try scorer Alun-Wyn Jones

“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. The try came from a great lineout drill between Lee Mears and Paul O’Connell and then a solid forward effort to get that close to the line.

“The try sealed it off for us and it was a result of good patience by the pack as a whole. We had to trust each other and trust the patterns. You could see they were about to break.

“The boys said it was a hard first 20 minutes in the conditions, but then they got their second wind. I didn’t get the chance to get my second wind because I wasn’t on that long.

“It is difficult gelling with players you haven’t played with before, but it is also exciting and thoroughly enjoyable.

“Full credit to them for the effort they put in. But there is no point in winning if it is easy.

“This is the start of the tour and I guess today was the end of the beginning and the start of the end. The momentum has been created and now we have to keep pushing forward.”

Royal XV coach Chaka Willemse

“There is a lot of Super 14 talent in those two teams the Lions will meet next week and they will have to pick it up after this or face a very difficult few matches.

“We said we mustn’t make mistakes in the first 30 minutes and that we needed to concentrate on the basics. We could have scored another two tries in the first half if we’d been more accurate.

“But then we made two mistakes in the second half and they really punished us for them.

“It was easy to see why Paul O’Connell was made captain. He wants to lead by example all the time and he was the man who gave the Lions some go forward – he really was a man on a mission.

“I think that once the Lions have played four or five times together they will be a superb unit. It is far too early to say what sort of threat they will pose to the Springboks, but I think they will be a quality side by the time of the Test series.”

Royal XV captain, Wilhelm Koch

“We gave it our all in the first half and we went out to hit the rucks hard. But they were very physical and it was a big step up for us from the Vodacom Cup.

“There was no time to think and no space to exploit. But it was a huge honour to run onto the field to play against the Lions – a once in a lifetime experience.”

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