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VIDEO: Lions happy to face Boks without their 'red army'

The British and Irish Lions have accepted the reality that their famous ‘red army’ of supporters won’t be an ally in South Africa.

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However, the class of 2021 will be able to enjoy the rarity of spectators at a game when 16,000 people are allowed to attend their warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Scottish government decided to allow a partial crowd with social distancing.

It will be a great send-off for the B&I Lions players, many who have grown accustomed to playing in empty stadiums as part of the COVID-19 protocols governing sporting events.

Then, seven days later, they head to South Africa to start an eight-match tour against the Johannesburg–based Lions at Ellis Park.

B&I Lions utility forward Iain Henderson is adamant they are not looking past Japan this week, adding it will be calamitous to underestimate the Japanese.

“Everyone is dying to get underway, but at this stage, I think everyone is also aligned in their goals,” the 29-year-old Irishman said.

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“For this first game, we know Japan are a huge threat.

“They have a different style to South Africa, but the level of intensity will be high and it will be a massive test for us.

“If we forget about them we’ll find ourselves in a difficult place.”

However, from next week they will have to look internally to ensure the spirits remain high and there are positive attitudes in the camp – give the absence of the usual hordes of travelling fans.

(Continue below …)

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Yet Henderson doesn’t think it will affect the mentality of the team when the first Test rolls around.

“Most of us haven’t heard a crowd cheer for well over a year now,” the Irish veteran said.

“We’re really looking forward to having fans in Murrayfield [on Saturday].

“It will be phenomenal”.

“[However,] in South Africa it will be different, there is uncertainty about numbers allowed in, if any.

“So this Lions Tour will be different, but the guys who have played in Six Nations and with clubs this season, are well used to dealing with adverse conditions.

“I would hope that anyone who may be affected by this can put it behind them and bring their best rugby on the pitch.

“We’ve all played with no crowds and the weird atmosphere that brings, so we’ll all be used to it.

“Being here on the last Tour [in New Zealand] makes you a little less nervous, and you slip back in with the guys from then pretty quickly.

“You also know what it is like for a new player, so you can make them feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible, which hopefully helps us on the pitch.”

@rugby365com

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