Graham Rowntree, Assistant Coach, talks of the physicality of the second Test and the determination of the Lions to win the third Test in Joburg.
On the brutally and physicality of the Second Test
I think John Schmidt used the word colossal – a colossal test – that’s a good descriptive word. I thought it was physical, fast and emotional. That was a proper test and a lot of people have referred to that game as one of the best Lions Tests ever – that doesn’t take away any of the pain of losing it but that isn’t a bad compliment. Those guys gave everything to that Test and there was immense disappointment afterwards and we don’t deserve to go home 3-0, that’s what driving us on this week.
On the resolve in the squad to go out and win
One thing we’ve natured on this tour is a great work ethic and a great bond between these players. I have no doubt they will up for it at the weekend and it’s our job as coaches to facilitate that, train accurately and leave some in the tank for Saturday, look at what we didn’t do well last week and what opportunities we’ve got this week.
On the Springboks intentions
I think they will try and whitewash us, try and make it 3-0. They think we are on the ropes, that we are down emotionally and physically and they will fancy their chances. Historically at the end of Lions tour your squad are held together with a piece of elastoplast but we have been very careful as to the amount of conditioning and training and aside from injury we are still in very good nick and have plenty in the tank.
On the Lions’ forward efforts in last weekend’s Test
It was a colossal effort from our forward pack in terms of our work rate and our scrum – I was gutted that we had to go uncontested. I thought our line out went well, we stopped their driving lineout, our breakdown was pretty accurate and the guys were hitting plenty of rucks and working really hard. I was really pleased with our forwards effort but there are always things we can do better and that will be our focus this week.
On the psychological challenge of this Third Test
I think we have been very careful in the group of players we selected and the ethic we have been nurturing. Yes we were battered and bruised emotionally and physically after last week but I have no doubt they will be up for it come the weekend.
On the feedback the squad have had from home
Feedback we have been getting is pretty positive. I think people are proud of our efforts and people gutted for us. We lost a Test series by 8 points in total – not by 38 – we gave it everything an I think that is known at home.
On Vickery and a likely return to the starting line-up
It will be a huge physiological challenge if Vicks starts again but one he is capable of overcoming. He is a strong character – one of the strongest characters I have ever come across in the game, as a fellow player and indeed someone who I’ve coached. I have no doubt that if he is selected he will get back out there and give a good performance. We’ve talked a lot about the first Test over last 10 days – that was an uncomfortable day in the office for Phil by his own admittance and by mine as well, but there is no one else out there with his strength of character as an individual and I’m backing that if indeed we do choose to start with him at the weekend.
On Paul O’Connell as Lions captain
Paul is outstanding. For me he has always had this aura about him – playing against him at Leicester v Munster and England v Ireland. I have been very impressed by his ethic, he is very professional and I have been hugely impressed by the amount he has spoke to the lads. A lot of the time when a guy is made a tour captain they feel they have to say too much, but he is very accurate at what he says to the lads and he says it at the right time. He is just one of those guys that everyone has a huge amount of respect for and I have been very impressed with him.
On the future of mid-week games as part of the Lions tour
I think you would take away one of the true values and the actual spirit of the tour. The beauty of the Lions tour is actually the mid-week games. The length of the tour and the volume of games you play as a squad – that’s the beauty of it. Other tours you play a couple of tests and your done but the Lions must go on in its full entirety and that must include mid week games.