x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Lions poised to launch early assault

The British & Irish Lions must prevent South Africa from building up the same momentum they did in the opening quarter in last week's first Test if they are to have any chance of fighting back in the series in Pretoria this afternoon.

The British & Irish Lions must prevent South Africa from building up the same momentum they did in the opening quarter in last week's first Test if they are to have any chance of fighting back in the series in Pretoria this afternoon. That is the verdict of Lions defence coach Shaun Edwards who has warned of the danger of allowing the Springboks to get their noses in front - a situation, he points out, England were never able to alter during their 2007 World Cup final defeat in Paris.

"The big thing with South Africa is you cannot allow them to get into a lead," said Edwards. "England saw that in the World Cup final. If you let them into a lead they are very good at putting a stranglehold on the game. "We need to be in touch with them after half-an-hour." England have called up Simon Shaw, the England lock, for his Lions debut, following their 26-21 first-Test defeat in Durban last weekend.

It is a change, Edwards believes, will make the tourists harder to break down. "There is no doubt that Simon Shaw is one of the best defensive players in the world," he said. "He is a colossus." Shaw will partner O'Connell in a meaty second-row alliance that could cause Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha a few problems. "We have to go out and play," said O'Connell. "That is when we have been at our best, when we have retained the ball and put it through the hands. That is when we have really put teams under pressure," added the captain.

"We conceded a lot of penalties during the first 40 minutes last week. When you concede penalties, you concede possession, territory and points. We need to eradicate that." Martin Johnson, arguably the greatest ever Lions second row, believes the tourists can level the series. "Of course they can win," said the England team manager. "Let's just go out and give it absolutely everything you've got and play at maximum speed from the first minute and see what happens. There will be nowhere to hide."

* With agencies