Mon 14 Jun 2021 | 12:37

Premiership semifinal a sneak preview of brutality expected in B&I Lions series

Premiership semifinal a sneak preview of brutality expected in B&I Lions series
Mon 14 Jun 2021 | 12:37
Premiership semifinal a sneak preview of brutality expected in B&I Lions series
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OPINION: When Exeter Chiefs host Sale Sharks at Sandy Park in the Premiership semifinal on Saturday, it will provide a sneak preview of just how brutal the Tests series between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions could be.

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A glance at the two teams’ encounter this past weekend – a come-from-behind 20-19 win for the defending-champion Chiefs – is already a good indicator of what’s to come on Saturday.

With four members of the B&I Lions squad in the Exeter line-up and four Bok squad members running out for Sale, there certainly was not a lack of ‘feeling’ in a game that saw the Chiefs book home ground advantage for the play-off rerun.

Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg, along with forwards Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds are the Exeter Chiefs players that will travel with the B&I Lions to South Africa next month.

Ironically Sale Sharks captain Tom Curry is also a member of the Lions tour squad.

He will again have the Bok quartet of Coenie Oosthuizen, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, as well as Francois de Klerk in his Sale Sharks team this week.

It made for a galvanic match this past weekend and is likely to have the same intensity and physicality in the semifinal.

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One of the most significant moments from this past weekend – which will reverberate in the build-up to the semifinal – was the Sam Skinner red card in 54th minute.

The Chiefs lock will face a disciplinary hearing after his high shot on the World Cup-winning Bok scrumhalf, De Klerk.

* (Article continues below video … De Klerk incident just after two minutes 30 seconds on video)

There were also two yellow cards – Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs) in the 34th minute and Ben Curry (Sale Sharks) in the 65th minute.

Referee Karl Dickson had little doubt about sending Skinner for an early shower.

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Explaining to Skinner the reason for the red card, Dickson told the offending player: “So we have got direct contact to the head. It’s a high degree of force and there is no mitigation, so it is going to be a red card.”

No doubt the coaches will downplay the past weekend’s events.

However, given the profile of the players in the Sandy Park showdown – and their roles in the Test series in July – Saturday’s game will no doubt have undertones of a brutal Test match.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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