British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland is keen to continue the momentum the tourists built in Hong Kong last week after he named his side to face the Western Force in Perth this Wednesday.
Gatland announced an entirely new starting XV to the one that beat the Barbarians 59-8 on Saturday, with Brian O’Driscoll chosen to captain the team in the absence of Tour skipper Sam Warburton.
The Lions arrived Down Under early this morning Australian time for the first of nine games here and Gatland is hoping his side will acclimatise in double quick time to build on the progress made against the Baa-Baas.
“We just want to continue with the momentum from Hong Kong – those players who start against the Force have an opportunity to build on what happened last Saturday,” said Gatland, who named five Lions debutants in his starting XV and two more among the replacements.
“There’s a huge amount of competition in the squad. We liked the team that went out last weekend and the coaches are pretty excited about this side as well. We picked a team last Saturday that looked good on paper and this team looks strong on paper as well.
“There was no priority in terms of this game and next Saturday against the Reds, either. It was just looking at this game and wanting to put out a strong side.”
Just as was the case for the eight-try triumph against the Barbarians in game number one two days ago, Gatland insists that his primary focus is on his own squad rather than on what the opposition will offer at Patersons Stadium.
The Force are due to name their side tomorrow but Gatland admits that he is more concerned with establishing patterns and making improvements in the Lions’ game plan rather than worrying about how opposite number Michael Foley and co will welcome the tourists to Australia.
“At this stage, it’s not about worrying about the opposition – it’s just about building on ourselves,” added Gatland.
“We’re not looking too much at the Australian sides at the moment, we’ll start to do that later. It’s just about reviewing our own performances and improving on those.
“We’re still getting to know the calls, patterns and structures and we’re building on combinations as well. This game on Wednesday is just about us, just as Saturday was.
“We’ve had a little bit of a look at the Force and the way they’ve been playing and we’ve got a game plan to go out and attack them with but we won’t be looking at them in too much detail. It’s about us and our preparation.”
For the full team to play the Force this Wednesday, please click here