x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

British & Irish Lions to 'lick their wounds' in luxury

After falling level with Australia, the British & Irish Lions will regroup in a resort town without captain Sam Warburton before Saturday's decider.

British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, right, did not make the trip to Noosa because he is resting a hamstring injury he suffered during his team’s one-point loss to Australia on Saturday in Melbourne. David Rogers / Getty Images
British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, right, did not make the trip to Noosa because he is resting a hamstring injury he suffered during his team’s one-point loss to Australia on Saturday in Melbourne. David Rogers / Getty Images

MELBOURNE // The British & Irish Lions arrived Sunday for a four-day getaway in the holiday resort town of Noosa on Australia's Sunshine Coast, not much in the mood for a holiday after what had occurred over the previous 24 hours.

With their captain Sam Warburton left behind in Melbourne to have scans on a hamstring injury, the Lions were left to mull the failed last-play penalty attempt by their fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

Australia escaped with a 16-15 victory in Melbourne on Saturday evening, just as the Lions had a week earlier when a missed Kurtley Beale penalty attempt on the siren allowed the visitors to win the opening match in the three-Test series 23-21, at Brisbane.

"Twenty-four hours later and there is still a certain bit of emotion and what we had at stake," the Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell said in Noosa yesterday.

The loss leaves the series level at 1-1 ahead of the third Test in Sydney on Saturday, not the scenario coach Warren Gatland had in mind when he wrote of the "surfing, paddle-boarding lessons, kayak tours and great hiking … and for a bit of rest and relaxation, there are loads of cafes, markets and top-class restaurants" in a British newspaper before the squad left for Australia.

He was referring to Noosa, where the team is staying in a five-star hotel on the main beach strip until Thursday, when they will fly to Sydney for final preparations ahead of the decider.

While most of the team will have some rest and relaxation, Farrell said Warburton's scans were not scheduled until yesterday evening. The Lions hope to have a better idea today on the Welsh flanker's availability for Sydney this weekend.

"We've come to Noosa for a couple of days off and we'll lick our wounds and get back to what we have to do on Tuesday and Wednesday this week," Farrell said.

"We all realise it's the biggest game of our lives and we'll see what comes of it."

Farrell said most of the squad will have two days off training, the exception being the Welsh centre Jamie Roberts and the English prop Alex Corbisiero, who will undergo a fitness session today to determine their availability for the third Test.

"There are a few boys training tomorrow and they will go hard," Farrell said.

"The rest of the squad have a couple of days off."

Roberts is recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained in a tour match against New South Wales Waratahs on June 15, while Corbisiero, an injury replacement himself, has a calf ailment. Both are expected to come into Test consideration if fit.

Roberts's strong, direct running in midfield could help the Lions in phase and broken play, and Corbisiero is an expert scrummager and should shore up some of the problems the pack had in the set piece against the Australians in Melbourne.

The hooker Tom Youngs, who had back spasms during Saturday's match, on Sunday said he was fit and ready to play in the deciding Test if chosen when the Lions name their team on Wednesday.

Large red banners welcoming the team and several hundred fans could be seen on the town's main street Sunday and restaurant staff wore red buttons welcoming the team and the overseas visitors.

The Sunshine Coast was not living up to its name for the team's arrival, however. It was gloomy, with on-and-off rain showers, and the forecast was similar for the team's first training day today at the Noosa Dolphins rugby ground which the local council recently refurbished at a cost of A$60,000 (Dh201,000) when the Lions confirmed it as a training base.

That decision was made a year ago, when the tour manager Andy Irvine and Gatland made a reconnaissance trip to check out the facilities.

Donald McKill, a member of the Dolphins club, had connections with Scottish rugby before he moved to Australia seven years ago.

"I invited them to come and have a look," McKill said.

"They fell in love with the place and loved the venue."

Gatland appeared to agree. When speaking of his scouting trip, he wrote: "Checking out Noosa was a tough job, but someone had to do it."

A year later, Gatland finds himself back in his self-described paradise, but with the series poised ahead of the final Test, surfing and kayak tours may have to take a back seat to the training pitch.


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