Sam Warburton and Luke Fitzgerald have identified a number of concerning aspects for the British and Irish Lions after their win against Japan.
The Lions were comfortable winners against Japan at Murrayfield thanks to a dominant first half performance, but Warren Gatland’s side were actually outscored by the visitors in the second half.
Former Lions captain Warburton was speaking on Channel 4 after the game against Japan and shared his concerns over the side’s lack of physicality in the last 30 minutes.
— Sam Warburton (@samwarburton_) June 26, 2021
Sam Warburton on the Lions tapering off.
“I thought the Lions started great and they really brought the physicality in that first 50 minutes. But then Japan suddenly took over,” Warburton commented.
“South Africa will watch that and see that the Lions did taper off in the last 30 minutes. I thought [Kazuki] Himeno was great when he came on, [Tevita] Tatufa was great when he came on for Japan.
“They would normally start but they’ve been flown in late because they play top flight rugby in New Zealand, or Himeno does anyway.
“So South Africa will see that once Japan brought the physicality they managed to have some success.”
Luke Fitzgerald: ‘I thought it was a bit scrappy.’
Over on Virgin Media, former Lions and Ireland Fitzgerald had some concerns of his own about the touring side’s rare performance on home soil.
While they did limit Japan to 10 points on the day, the Lions’ defence was cut apart on a number of occasions, as Brave Blossoms winger Kotaro Matsushima made plenty of ground when he was given a little bit of space.
While Fitzgerald acknowledged that a lack of cohesion was expected given the Lions squad’s short time together, he believes certain elements of their game must be amended before they face the Springboks.
“I thought it was a bit scrappy. You’d probably expect that given the team was just thrown together, despite all the quality that they’re able to pick from,” Fitzgerald said.
▪️ Defensive shape.
▪️ Defending 1-on-1’s.
▪️ Scrappy kicking.@lukefitz11 points out the concerning areas of the Lions win over Japan, but believes overall they’ll be happy with their start.#LionsRugby | #VMTVRugby pic.twitter.com/rr1U6Qtzph
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) June 26, 2021
“I thought there were a few concerning areas – the defence was quite narrow. That’s not a problem if you come off the line very hard but they didn’t do that. That will be a problem for them against South Africa.
“If you give up momentum against them in the tight areas of the pitch like they did against Japan you’ll never get it back against South Africa.
“I think they’ll be worried about some of the one-on-ones. They didn’t deal with [Kotaro] Matsushima very well. Cheslin Kolbe will be a problem if that continues.
“I thought the kicking was a little bit scrappy as well but overall, they’ll be happy to get a win and start the tour with a little bit of momentum. Not too disappointing but definitely some stuff to work on.”