British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has defended his side’s tour schedule after criticism from New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen.
All Blacks boss Hansen suggested the Lions, who line up for their opening match on Saturday having arrived on Wednesday, would find adapting “pretty difficult” — but Warburton has joined tour manager John Spencer is playing down the situation.
The Welshman, who will start the curtain-raiser against a Provincial Barbarians XV, said: “I’m fine, I think talk on the schedule has been blown out of proportion a little bit.
“If we had one squad of 23 it would be absolutely brutal, but we’ve got nearly two squads of players, so guys aren’t going to be starting Saturday, starting Wednesday then starting again Saturday.
“So we’ve got a big squad of top-quality players who can deal with that fixture list. I can see how from the outside it looks bad but I think it’s fine really.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen criticised the hectic nature of the British & Irish Lions tour schedule. Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images
“If guys were going to start six matches before the Test series that would ring alarm bells, but that’s not going to happen. We’ve got a big squad, everyone’s excited and desperate to start. The guys are fresh, ready to go and in a good place.”
Lions head coach Warren Gatland was equally bullish about his side’s prospects and in particular the manner in which they will approach facing the haka, which he feels will serve to inspire his men rather than intimidate them.
The New Zealander said: “There’s no plan for the haka. We’ll just face up to it. The nice thing is that players are going to get an opportunity to face the haka on more than one occasion.
“For me the experience, the more times you face up to it, you don’t mind it, it’s a motivational thing; it’s not intimidating.
“And I’m pleased my players will face it more than once. You become familiar with it. It becomes part of regular preparation for a game.”
The Lions play six fixtures before the first Test against the All Blacks — in Auckland on June 24.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19510203/sam-warburton-dismisses-criticism-lions-hectic-tour-schedule
Warburton happy with Lions tour schedule
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY