x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

These Lions are more dangerous

The Sharks coach John Plumtree believes that the 2009 British & Irish Lions are better organised and prepared than their predecessors four years ago.

DURBAN // The 2009 British & Irish Lions have been described as "better organised and better managed" than their immediate predecessors four years ago in New Zealand. The ringing endorsement came from the Sharks coach John Plumtree after the Lions beat his team 39-3 at the ABSA Stadium.

New Zealander Plumtree coached Wellington against Sir Clive Woodward's 2005 Lions, a torrid tour that ended with them losing the Test series 3-0 against the All Blacks. "The Lions had a little bit too much for us," said the former Swansea coach. "The amount of work we had to do defensively meant we couldn't do enough in attack." Plumtree fielded a side minus several Springboks on training camp duty, continuing the trend of a tour that has seen the Lions win four successive games and post 176 points.

"I think they [the Lions] might find they are a little bit underdone going into the Test series, so there is a flip side to the provinces being under-strength," he added. "But the Springboks have got to make sure over the next 10 days they prepare really smartly. I think the Lions will be ready more than the Boks will be in terms of their structures. I think this Lions team is much better [than in 2005].

"It is better organised and better managed. The players still probably don't know who is in the Test team, although I thought there were probably 10 or 11 Test players out there against us." The Lions head coach Ian McGeechan hailed a "very strong performance" after his side maintained their unbeaten tour record. The tourists scored 32 unanswered second-half points, with a five-try haul being shared by Lee Mears, Mike Phillips, Luke Fitzgerald, Lee Byrne and Jamie Heaslip.

Fly-half Ronan O'Gara added 12 points with the boot, and there was a late conversion by substitute James Hook as the Sharks were blown away on a breezy night. "I am very pleased," said McGeechan. "We showed very strong discipline and patience. It was a very strong performance. "We didn't panic. We just kept building a performance and reaped the benefits in the second-half." McGeechan, meanwhile, played down any injury concerns surrounding the Wales centre Jamie Roberts, who took a knock to his shoulder. "There is no problem," he added.

"It is just bruising with Jamie's shoulder. He took a heavy bang on it" He added: "You don't get carried away with things. The Test matches will be another level completely. "We need to keep our feet on the ground. Our discipline and patience, and the fact we finished very strongly, showed the players are enjoying playing with the ball and without it." The Lions skipper Paul O'Connell saluted his team's second-half display after they were made to work hard for a 7-3 interval advantage.

"If we didn't trust each other, it would have been very easy to get frustrated. "But we stayed very patient, relaxed and stayed on the job," he said. "It was a big step forward for us. * PA Sport