Lions impress Gatland

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland says he's been hugely impressed by what he's seen from his squad so far this month. [more]

Lions impress Gatland

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland says he’s been hugely impressed by what he’s seen from his squad so far this month.

Gatland and co began preparing for the 10-match tour of Hong Kong and Australia with a training camp in Wales last week and have now moved on to Ireland, with the opening fixture against the Barbarians just 11 days away.

And the man charged with leading Britain and Ireland’s elite to a first series success since 1997 believes the current pride are in a stronger position than the last lot of Lions who left these shores to head to South Africa four years ago.

"I was really impressed with last week, not just over how well everyone gelled but from a technical aspect as well," said Gatland, whose squad ran against the Welsh national side at The Vale during their first get together.

"Having been involved with the Lions four years ago, there has been a significant improvement in the players technically.

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"We had a great week last week. The players trained exceptionally well and I don’t think we are too far away from being able to put things together. We're fit, we're big, we're strong and we have some real pace.

"We trained with a level of intensity that some of the players from other countries hadn't experienced before. Some of the Welsh boys hadn't experienced that for a few months as well. It reminded people of what the expectations are.

“We did some training against the Welsh team on Friday, the forwards did some lineouts and mauling against them. Our backs ran against them and looked really, really sharp and put the Welsh team to the sword. They put them under a lot of pressure and came away from that feeling really, really positive."

Tour captain Sam Warburton was also in positive mood after stage one of The Lions’ preparation, with the Wales openside claiming that Gatland’s enthusiastic approach was already having a big influence on the group as a whole.

"Warren is extremely optimistic, as all Kiwis are. That's what I am like myself and I think his confidence rubs off on the players," Warburton told Sky Sports News.

"Preparation won't be an excuse. I think we should be quite well prepared for the Barbarians game.

"I think everyone is ready now. On the first Monday when we had those meetings we were just looking forward to getting on the training pitch, getting the ball in the hands and getting prepared for that first game because this is what everyone dreams of going on a Lions Tour. The opportunity will pass you by if you don't embrace it."

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