Lions won't show their wild side in tour opener, says Courtney Lawes

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    Lawes is wary that the clash with the Sigma Lions at Emirates Airline Park tomorrow offers a chance to deliver a bruising welcome to South Africa.

    But Lawes has told Ivan Van Rooyen’s side that while the tourists want to put an early marker down up front they will be turning the other cheek to any rough stuff.

    “I’m not entirely sure what we’re going to get in terms of craic on the pitch and people trying to wind us up but we’ve got a lot of pretty level-headed players,” he said. 

    “We’re certainly not looking to start scrapping in the first game on the tour. We’ll see what happens.”

    “Regardless of who you play, as a Lions team your opposition are always going to be gunning for you and they’re always going to be so up for it and ready to get into you. 

    “We will be prepared for that but still looking to impose our own physicality on the game as well.

    “It’s our first game out here so it’s going to be important to take a good step forward and show what we are going to be about on this tour and – come the Tests – what sort of pack we’re going to be.”

    The Sigma Lions came bottom of the South African pool in the recent Rainbow Cup so offer a good chance for the tourists to make a positive early impression but Lawes has warned against any repeat of the 74-10 rout on the last tour in 2009.

    “If there is talk of that, it’s not coming from us,” said the Northampton flanker. 

    “We’re just excited to get out there and put what we’ve been doing in training on the park.

    “I don’t feel under pressure. We just want to show what we can do.”

    The tourists, who have Robbie Henshaw sidelined with a hamstring injury, have been boosted by the possibility that captain Alun Wyn Jones may be able to play some part in the tour after all.

    The Lions’ medical team are monitoring his recuperation from the shoulder he dislocated against Japan having been informed by specialists the damage is not as bad as expected when he was initially ruled out of the tour.

    “For him to get back in any way shape or form would be awesome,” said Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins.

    “If someone of his calibre becomes available and he’s able to represent us, it becomes a no brainer.

    “I’ve known Al a long time and I’ve never written him off in any way shape or form. 

    “Nothing surprises me with Al. He’s an incredible player who looks after himself incredibly well. 

    “If anyone can get back to playing in the Test series, then he certainly can.”

    Meanwhile, Lewis Ludlow admitted to his astonishment after being named by Eddie Jones as England’s first uncapped captain for 37 years yesterday.

    The Gloucester skipper will follow in the footsteps of Nigel Melville in 1984 and become only the fifth rookie captain in England’s history when he leads the side out against the USA at Twickenham tomorrow.

    “He rang me on Sunday and said he was thinking of doing it if the week went well and I wasn’t quite sure how to take it, what to believe,” said the 26-year-old, who will take over captaincy duties with regular skipper Owen Farrell on tour with the Lions.

    “I was completely shocked, but anyone here that has caps has been really supportive of what I’ve been doing and it has been a massive group effort.

    “I have captained since I was really young. 

    “At Ampthill I think that was more to do with the fact that there wasn’t really anybody that spoke too much. 

    “I was quite a gobby little kid, I suppose, and that went quite well for me.

    The flanker is one of eight uncapped players in the starting line-up including half-backs Harry Randall and Marcus Smith, the Harlequins playmaker who led his side to the Premiership title at Twickenham last weekend.

    “If the ball is quick on Sunday we should see some good rugby from both of those boys,” said Jones.



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