Rugby-Lions pack seeks to put down marker in tour opener

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By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions forwards will be looking to put down a marker for their South African tour with a strong display when they play their first game in Johannesburg on Saturday, lock Jonny Hill said on Thursday.

The Englishman was named in the team for the first match against the Gauteng Lions at Ellis Park, where the touring side are anticipating being put through their paces by the local forwards.

It is the first of eight tour matches, each one expected to see the tourists submitted to a harsh physical examination in the scrums and mauls.

"We’ve spoken about sending a marker out at the set piece within the forwards and then wherever our marker is set, we can just keep building and building on it, right up until the test matches," Hill told a news conference on Thursday.

"So, it’s hugely important. They are a country that have won huge games just from their set piece and it’s a thing in these games they are going to target, so we need to target it as well. It’s going to be an interesting battle."

Hill said the Lions were confident they would not be bullied.

"I have no doubts whatsoever we have enough firepower to beat them," he said.

The 27-year-old said he had already had a taste of the physical South Africa approach, playing for Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership.

"There is no secret to the way South Africans play the game. I play alongside three or four South African-born lads at Chiefs and I know how they are made up. So, we know what’s coming."

The Lions can be a side known for their forward strength too.

"We need to take it out of the backs’ hands when it comes down to it," Hill said. "We want to give them as much space as possible and to do that we need to as dominant as possible in the pack."

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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