Alun Wyn Jones: Time for players to step up after Lions tour uncertainty due to coronavirus | Rugby Union News

Wales rugby captain Alun Wyn Jones leads the Lions in a first appearance against Japan and also in their first outing at Murrayfield on Saturday; then fly to South Africa, where the tour will take place in defiance of a growing number of coronavirus cases.

Last updated: 06/26/21 08:15 AM

British and Irish Lions Alun Wyn Jones says the unusual environment around the tour made the squad stronger

British and Irish Lions Alun Wyn Jones says the unusual environment around the tour made the squad stronger

Alun Wyn Jones insists it’s time for players to take center stage when months of uncertainty over British and Irish Lions’ tour end with Saturday’s opener against Japan in Edinburgh.

Jones leads the Lions in a rare home game, a first appearance against the enterprising Brave Blossoms and also their first outing at Murrayfield.

Twenty-four hours later, they will depart for South Africa, where the tour will take place in defiance of a growing number of coronavirus cases which have forced the host country into a partial lockdown.

Alternatives such as relocation to these coasts or to Australia were considered because the shipment to the home of the world champions was questioned by the pandemic, but with the visit of Japan it will finally have taken off.

“It’s been a long time. Everyone was looking at the selection before as far as willpower is concerned, haven’t they,” said Jones, who will begin his fourth tour.

“It took so long to be now 24 hours into the first game. There was a tremendous amount of work and effort to get it started and now it’s up to the players to get started as well.

“The challenge is to come together to create what is going to be a winning streak with the test side.

“You watch the Lions and that’s what it is about, that’s what you want to be a part of and I’m sure I’m not the only guy on the team who’s fighting to keep going.”

The team left their Jersey training base on Thursday for Edinburgh, where they will spend three nights before heading south to the equator for their eight-game route that will culminate with a series of tests against the Springboks.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has said he has confidence in the squad he has for the warm-up test against Japan at Murrayfield.

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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has said he has confidence in the squad he has for the warm-up test against Japan at Murrayfield.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has said he has confidence in the squad he has for the warm-up test against Japan at Murrayfield.

At every step, the Covid restrictions placed on them will be more stringent and the most severe in South Africa, but rather than seeing the limitations on their freedoms as a hindrance, Jones believes they will galvanize the Lions instead.

“I’ve been on these tours, but this is the first of a global pandemic with all the challenges off the pitch,” Jones said.

“In many ways we will have a constant challenge off the pitch and when we go out onto the pitch it’s a chance to express ourselves.

“This opportunity will not be wasted. It is clear how lucky and privileged we are to be here.

“There are a lot of people who have said the tour probably shouldn’t have happened, but we’re very lucky and it resonates with the team.

“In many ways, because the bubble is as it is, it allowed us to develop a siege mentality from the start. Not against rugby teams, but against threats to the tour as a whole. .

“The fact that we are spending more time together, there might be a bit of a fever in the cabin at one point, but I hope the most positive side effect will be on performance and we all appreciate that.”

Japan will play their first international game since the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals and while they are a bit rusty, they are set to threaten the Lions’ defense with their swashbuckling game in front of 16,500 spectators at Murrayfield.

“Dynamics have always been important. I’ve been to enough Six Nations launches to know that’s the buzzword that’s still being used,” Jones said.

“It doesn’t matter who takes the field in those first three games, you want to get off to a good start and build momentum.”

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