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Saracens Boss Slams Lions Officials Over “Unbelievable” Get Together

One of the biggest challenges for any Lions Tour is to generate team cohesion between the squad. Of course, this applies to on the pitch matters as all of a sudden, 41 players need to understand a completely new game-plan in an incredibly short period of time.

But this also applies to off the pitch situations. Many of these players have been coming up against each other for their respective clubs and countries over the last number of years – so generating a level of team spirit and camaraderie is crucial for a successful tour.

You only have to look back to the infamous 2005 Tour to New Zealand to see how Clive Woodward’s philosophy of separating the midweek and Test players from one another contributes (amongst many other reasons) to the team’s downfall.

Based on various anecdotes and autobiographies from past players, the team spirit on the 2009 and 2013 tours was up to the required standard and Warren Gatland will need to facilitate this again in just a few weeks time.

However, although this is an important facet of the Lion’s ideology, the opportunity to do so can get in the way of other commitments – most notably for players who are still involved with their clubs at the business end of the season.

Lions officials have organised ‘Messy Monday’ which takes place this week and it offers the opportunity for the Lions players to get together.

Players will be fitted with their Lions kit and it offers one of the first opportunities for the players to get together and mingle with one another.

However, Saracens boss Mark McCall has questioned the timing of the event as he will have to release a lot of his players, in the week building up to their Champions Cup final against Clermont Auvergne in Murrayfield.

“There is a Lions get-together on Monday which seems to be quite unbelievable…given it is the most important week of the season,” McCall told The Telegraph.

McCall will have to release Mako and Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Jamie George and as a result, will not hold a training session on Monday due to the absent players.

“We won’t train on Monday and will shorten our week to train in a six-day week.”

McCall recalls that previous European Cup finalists like Leinster have had this problem in the past but they did not withhold their players.

McCall is happy for his players to be selected for the Lions but hopes that future tours will reschedule this event to a more appropriate time.

“We won’t train on Monday and will shorten our week to train in a six-day week.” 

It’s a huge week for McCall’s side as they look to secure back-to-back Champions Cup success.

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email or on Twitter