B&I Lions are up for face-off with Bok brutes
The British and Irish Lions are ready to fight fire with fire in what will be a bruising opening Test in the three-match series against South Africa.
The much-anticipated face-off gets underway at an empty Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, but the action on the pitch is likely to be as brutal as any series before.
Irish centre Robbie Henshaw insists the B&I Lions are ready to meet the Springboks’ physical onslaught head-on.
The Springboks will be playing only their second Test since lifting the 2019 World Cup and will target Warren Gatland’s men with their ferocious pack, suffocating defence and aerial dominance.
Only once before have the Lions lost the first game, but gone on to win the series – a distinction held by Finlay Calder’s 1989 tourists to Australia – to raise the stakes for the collision.
Henshaw acknowledged that the B&I Lions are heading into a bruising battle on Saturday, as they seek an early advantage – ahead of the other two Tests on July 31 and August 7, also in Cape Town.
“We are massively ready,” he told a virtual media briefing.
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“We have done a lot of contact work, we have had a lot of games now against tough opposition and big men here in South Africa.
“We are ready and we have to expect to deal with a big kicking battle and big men running at us from the kick-off.
“It is going to be a tough battle up front and the battle at the gainline will also be huge.
“The Springboks will be well up for it and there will be huge intensity.
“We have to try and dominate the gainline and get go-forward ball.
“I just need to go out and enjoy it and play my regular game and hopefully be on the winning side.”
He also spoke about his midfield battle, which brings a Leinster-Munster element to the first Test.
When Henshaw and Damian de Allende will face off in one of the most familiar mano-a-mano match-ups of the day, and by some distance.
The two Irish provinces have met five times since August – the duo facing off in all of them, including Munster’s Rainbow Cup win in April.
“I’ve played Damian about five times already this year – just within the Pro14 – so yeah, it’s a funny one, probably match six,” Henshaw said.
“But this is solely Lions versus South Africa,” he stressed.
“It’s going to be a huge Test, but I’ll have a chat after with him as always.
“He’s a great player and a great guy as well.”
Sources: RugbyPass & Irish Times