x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Lions to bare claws at breakdown

The battle at the breakdown will be the area the British & Irish Lions will be seeking a drastic improvement in against the Natal Sharks tonight.

The battle at the breakdown will be the area the British & Irish Lions will be seeking a drastic improvement in against the Natal Sharks tonight, according to the captain Paul O'Connell. The Lions were given a masterclass in the dark art by Heinrich Brussow, the Free State Cheetahs scavenger, on Saturday as they came within a whisker of suffering their first defeat of the tour. David Wallace has been picked as the Lions' specialist open-side flanker and he will be expected to do most of the dirty work on the floor while Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip look to wreak havoc in the loose.

"The breakdowns have become the most important part of the game now and they've obviously been something we have emphasised in training this week," said O'Connell, who will captain the side from the second row. "But I don't think we were bullied there against the Cheetahs and we are not worried about sending out any messages in our match against the Sharks. We will continue to work on the breakdowns right until the end of the tour," O'Connell added.

The Lions beat the Cheetahs 26-24 in Bloemfontein on Saturday and defence coach Shaun Edwards hinted they hoped for a fairer adjudication of the breakdowns against the Sharks. "We'll have Jonathan Kaplan on Wednesday night and he is a top-class referee and we expect him to administer the breakdowns as he has in numerous Tests, which is in the correct manner," he said. O'Connell, the lock, said the Natal game provided the players with another chance to stake their claims for a place in the side for the first Test on June 20.

"There are three games to go, so we are halfway through our build-up, and there are still spaces up for grabs," O'Connell said. The Sharks have named Sprinbok props Deon Carstens and Jannie Du Plessis in the front-row. Their battle with Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones will be fascinating. * With agencies