From Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
This doesn’t look like a side of Western Australia proportions (116-10 at the start of the 2001 tour) but the Royal XV look certain to be the weakest side the British and Irish Lions will face on this trip.
Made up largely of three Currie Cup teams; the Griquas and the Leopards, who finished sixth and eighth in last season’s competitions the opposition ensures that the Lions are 1-66 with the bookies to make a winning start to this trip. Anything less than a convincing win and the Lions may as well go home now!
Royal XV coach, Chaka Willemse is certainly talking a good game, promising the Lions a “rough ride” and that will be music to the ears of Ian McGeechan and his Lions coaches. Geech only has six games to warm-up for the first Test so the last thing he wants is for one of them to be thrown away. He wants a rough, tough game, where he can learn a lot about his players. Willemse also promises to “move the ball quickly and tire them out in the hot conditions”.
At the Lions camp today talking to coaches Shaun Edwards and Graham Rowntree and players Martyn Williams and Andy Sheridan the tour still has the feel of a ‘phony war’ – everyone can’t wait until we have a game to talk about!
The occasion is expected to be very special. The new ground, built for next year’s FIFA World Cup is likely to be packed, even though the Bulls play the Chiefs in the Super 14 final later that day.
The only problems the Lions have is with Andy Powell, who is suffering from an insect bite to the hand. It is a big game for Andy Sheridan, who has to set down a marker for this tour, as he is in ferocious competition with Gethin Jenkins for the loosehead spot.
The match kicks off at 2pm, UK time and is live on Sky Sports