Mulling over the maul

Shaun Edwards has stressed how defending the drive off the lineout will be crucial to achieving success on the Lions tour.

The abolition of certain ELVs, including collapsing the maul and unlimited numbers at the lineout, has been openly welcomed by players and coaches both sides of the equator.

However, Edwards,the tourists’ defence guru,admits his players have struggled to readjust to the unique defence required to stop the drive.

The Royal XV used it to good effect in setting up hooker Rayno Barnes’s try while they also repelled the Lions forwards when they were in possession.

‘It was obvious we weren’t able to defend the drive,’ said Edwards. ‘But neither could they as both sides haven’t had to deal with it for a year. Thank God it’s back though.’

Edwards is an intense and proud individual and he felt insulted that the Royals crossed the whitewash on three occasions.

‘We are not going to win a Lions series against the Springboks by conceding three tries in a match,’ he said. ‘It has to improve. The players are an extension of me on the field. I’m with them in spirit and I take it personally when people score against us.

‘Like the players, the only way to put it right is on the pitch in the next game – I can’t wait. If we leak more soft tries on Wednesday against the Golden Lions, I will be very upset.’

Edwards pin-pointed the 8-9 axis of the hosts as the crucial area to nullify at Ellis Park.

‘They have a strong scrum that allows their big ball-carrying No 8 [Willem Alberts], to get over the advantage line. Their scrummie [Jano Vermaak] is a real jack-in-the-box and has real energy. I watched him quite a bit in the Super 14 and he impressed me.’

Edwards, as have all the Lions mentors, has promised a better showing in their second fixture. He said this would set them up for the rest of the tour.

‘We have no excuses, we need to put a marker down on tour and have to play for the full 80.

‘From there we can progress. It is the ultimate challenge to win in South Africa. We have seven weeks to come together against the world champions, while their core group has been together for seven years.

‘Alongside the World Cup, this is the biggest thing in rugby.’

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg