The British and Irish Lions’ toughest task on their South Africa tour will be to develop the cohesion of other international sides, forwards coach Warren Gatland said on Tuesday.
“We have very good players here but we are starting from scratch as a team, with all new calls. There isn’t that continuity that you have when coaching other teams and that’s the most difficult challenge,” Gatland told a news conference.
“We need to get together as a team really quickly but we have moved a lot further forward in that regard over the last two weeks. We are very pleased how much progress we have made.”
Reuters reports that Gatland coached the Wales side who were defeated 43-17 and 37-21 by the Springboks last year.
“I learned that you have to make sure you concentrate on the basics against the Springboks. We had to go back to basics, get the set pieces right and do a lot of work on the breakdowns.
“We took a lot of positives out of the difference between week one and week two, and in that second test in Pretoria we were in front for 60 minutes. Then in the last test back in Wales, a turnover and an intercept cost us the game. It was very disappointing, but that’s why you have to be very accurate for 80 minutes against the Springboks,” Gatland said.
The 45-year-old former All Blacks hooker was part of the Waikato team who hammered the Lions 38-10 in Hamilton in 1993. Gatland scored a try.
“You only get one shot as a player against the Lions and we were very motivated and one of the best teams in New Zealand at that time. Now I’m on the other side of the fence and, personally, it’s a massive honour to be here, working with the best players in the northern hemisphere,” he said.
Gatland said the Springboks would provide formidable opposition.
“It’s going to be really tough to beat the world champions, I can’t speak highly enough of my respect for them and I think a series victory would top what I achieved with Wales and Wasps.
“When the Lions won here in 1997, the game was still finding its feet in the professional era. But now the Springboks have very good, experienced players and it would be a huge achievement to do that now,” he said.
The Lions held their first on-field training session on Tuesday morning and Gatland reported everyone had taken part, including centre Brian O’Driscoll.
Gatland said although O’Driscoll’s injured shoulder was “a bit tight and sore” he had trained fully.Tweet