Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
2 minute read
2 Jul 2021
7:49 am

Lions look to ‘lay down a marker’ in tour opener

Ken Borland

For coach Warren Gatland, the pace with which his team settles into their combinations will be vital.

British and Irish Lions players during a training session. Picture: Gallo Images

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg says he will be looking to ensure the British and Irish Lions stamp their mark on their tour of South Africa with the right performance and result as he captains them in their opening match overseas against Gauteng’s Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The lively fullback leads an almost entirely new starting XV for the tourists and he certainly has the experience for the job, being on his third Lions tour and having led Scotland to momentous away victories over both England and France in this year’s Six Nations Championship.

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“We will be looking to lay down a marker early doors and start the tour in the best way possible,” Hogg said.

“I’ve watched the 1997 South African tour video about a million times and I reckon I can quote 90% of it. I absolutely loved Martin Johnson as the captain, but I will be my own man as a leader.

“It’s not my style to scream and shout. I prefer to lead from the front. There will be lots of great leaders in the team on Saturday like Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, and I will just be going out and trying to do my job.”

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For coach Warren Gatland, the pace with which his team settles into their combinations will be vital with just five matches to be played before the first Test in Cape Town on July 24.

“We’re a bit limited with there only being five games before the Tests, so we need to build confidence quickly and create combinations too and see how they work out as quickly as possible because there’s a lot of competition in the squad,” Gatland said.

“If we play well on Saturday then we can get that confidence going. We’ve had a good look at the opposing Lions and they will be strong up front.

“The first game is always difficult as you need to get up to speed and we’re up against a side that is probably the least affected in terms of losing players to the Springboks, so they’re going to be a settled outfit and incredibly motivated to be the first team to beat us on tour. But it’s been above expectation how well we’ve gelled so far and we know how tough and physical it’s going to be.”