Warren Gatland expects Lions Test series to go ahead despite coronavirus scare

·3-min read

Warren Gatland is confident the British and Irish Lions’ Test series against South Africa will proceed as scheduled despite outbreaks of coronavirus in both camps.

The Lions swept aside the Sharks 54-7 in Johannesburg on Wednesday night but it could be their last game for a week after Saturday’s clash with the Bulls was postponed because of Covid in the provincial side’s camp.

Gatland was forced to make eight changes to his original starting XV after eight Lions were forced to isolate in the wake of positive tests by a squad member and one of the management team.

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Meanwhile, the Springboks’ clash with Georgia on Friday has been cancelled as both nations contend with outbreaks of their own.

The future of the tour hangs in the balance with organisers determined to ensure the Test series goes ahead but when asked if he has any concerns over its viability, Gatland said: “No, not at all. I honestly believe that we will have a Test series.

“We’ve been in this bubble for the last four weeks so we’re not sure where it’s come from. We’ve been very vigilant in terms of what we’ve been doing as a group.

“When we first came into the (Johannesburg) hotel there were a number of hotel staff who tested positive and had to be removed. Whether it’s come from them or not….we’re not sure where we’ve picked these cases up from.

Josh Adams scored a hat-trick against the Sharks
Josh Adams scored a hat-trick against the Sharks (Steve Haag/PA)

“But I know that all of our tests had been negative up until today (Wednesday). We’ll just address it as it goes on. We knew there would be certain challenges but we’re hopeful that we can get things back on track and the Test series can go ahead.

“The medics said there’s a likelihood being in South Africa that we’ll get a case or two and it’s just about how we deal with it. South Africa are probably in a worse situation.

“For us, we’ve got some time over the next couple of weeks to get everyone right so that hopefully we can have a good Test series.”

Gatland spoke of the “surreal” build-up to the eight-try rout at Emirates Airline Park with all players having to spend eight hours of the day in their rooms after the first positive test was returned.

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“It’s been quite surreal and a real challenge. The players were in their rooms until 6pm this (Wednesday) evening,” he said.

“We didn’t get the results back until 5.30pm and we had to make a few changes. But I’m incredibly proud of the performance of the players and how they adjusted and how hard the staff worked.

“My message to the players was ‘let’s use this as a positive. Whatever is thrown at us, let’s show that we can deal with it’. Nothing’s going to phase us.

“We were in a situation where we weren’t in control of things so we just have to go with the flow and adjust.

“We talk about being able to adapt and change in a situation of chaos. That’s what we did today and the players were outstanding in their approach.”

The Lions finished with 13 men after wings Louis Rees-Zammit and Duhan van der Merwe suffered tight hamstrings and were taken off as a precaution.

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