BaaBaas will put heat on Lions
Lawrence Dallaglio has warned the B&I Lions not to expect an easy ride against the Barbarians when they kick off their tour on Saturday.
England World Cup-winner Lawrence Dallaglio has warned the British and Irish Lions not to expect an easy ride against the Barbarians when they kick off their tour in Hong Kong on Saturday.
Dallaglio, a hero of the victorious 1997 Lions side, countered suggestions that the game would simply be a warm-up for the three-Test series against Australia after the Barbarians lost 12-40 to England last Sunday.
"Everybody's calling it a warm-up," Dallaglio told AFP in an interview.
"If you've ever played a game of rugby you will know there are no warm-ups or friendlies. Especially when you play for the Lions."
"I don't see this as a warm-up. It is quite an historic fixture now," he added.
"Nearly every player in that Barbarians side is a Test player. They will want to do themselves justice and want to be very competitive."
The maiden match in Asia for the Lions, who first toured in 1888, is set to be played in 30°C temperatures and high humidity at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.
Only 22 of the Lions' 37-man squad have been together since training began two weeks ago, with the missing men involved in big club matches across Europe until last weekend.
But Dallaglio believes Warren Gatland, even at this early stage of the 10-match tour, may have erred hen he opted to rest most of the 15 who only came together a few days ago.
"I can only speak from my own experience. I wanted to play every week, whether I played last weekend or not. Personally I'd want to play the first game on tour," Dallaglio said.
"There's only so many games you get as a player before the Test match. Every player's aim and ambition has to be to play in the Test series and there will be two, maybe three, opportunities for each player to put his case forward.
"Warren obviously wants to make sure he doesn't run the risk of overplaying players. On the flip-side of that, there's a number of players who probably haven't pulled on their boots for about four weeks."
The Lions will play nine games in total in Australia, with only five tour matches in the country before the first Test on June 22.
Tours in past eras saw 20 or more games outside of the Tests.
Dallaglio said it was not ideal preparation but world-class players could cope.
"As long as each player gets three games each, or some involvement in three games, then each player will believe he has had the opportunity to put his case forward," the former England flank said.
"The itinerary is what it is, and you have to work to that schedule. I think there are enough games. The good thing about Warren is that he has been on previous Lions tours."
Gatland, the Lions forwards coach under Ian McGeechan four years ago in South Africa, has 15 Welshmen and 10 Irishmen at his disposal, since the late inclusion of hooker Rory Best.
"Remember Gatland's coached Wales for quite a few years," said Dallaglio. "He's also coached Ireland. He's worked with a lot of these players before.
"They've got a good understanding of him. And he will have a very clear philosophy how he wants to play the game."
Dallaglio knows from his own Lions experiences that anything can happen once the action begins and players have to grasp every chance to stake a Test claim.
The former England captain was credited with a try-saving tackle that enabled the Lions to hang on for victory in the final Test and beat South Africa 2-1 in the 1997 series.
But in 2005 in New Zealand, his third Lions tour, he fractured his ankle in the very first match against Bay of Plenty.
"Every player wants to play in the Tests, but you don't look beyond your next opportunity. So this weekend, this Saturday, is so important," he said.
"It's a big game. For many of these guys it's going to be the first time they've pulled on a Lions jersey and people react in different ways. Whoever gets the privilege and honour, it is an opportunity to put in a really solid performance.
"And that might give Warren a few selection headaches for the Tests."