British & Irish Lions bosses insist they have not gambled by handing their players two days off in Queenstown ahead of Saturday’s Test series decider with New Zealand.
Strength and conditioning chief Paul Stridgeon hailed the tactic as having worked for the Lions in 2009 and 2013, and also with Wales under Warren Gatland in the past.
Stridgeon claimed the Lions players have not needed any kind of alcohol ban despite two days’ rest and recuperation in New Zealand’s party capital and extreme sports centre of Queenstown.
“We’ve run this blueprint with Warren a couple of times,” Stridgeon said of the Lions handing their players two days off ahead of this weekend’s crucial clash in Auckland.
“We’ve done this in Wales a couple of times too; we did it in a big World Cup week with Wales and it paid off. Whenever we’ve done it we’ve performed well.
“With this group of players, we revisited this plan on Saturday [after the Lions won the second Test 24-21].
“So we all agreed it was still best for the team. We feel each game the boys have been getting better and raising that intensity.
“We feel we took the All Blacks to a level in the second Test and we feel we’ll be able to go higher again this weekend.”
Lions strength and conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon in Queenstown. David Rogers/Getty Images
The tourists can now secure a first series win in New Zealand since 1971, and Stridgeon said all the players have kept a steely focus this week, despite a chance to recharge their batteries after a gruelling five weeks on the road.
“We’ve not needed to put anything like that on the players,” Stridgeon said, when asked if any alcohol ban was required this week.
“There’s a lot of committees, the players made their own rules at the start in conjunction with the coaches.
“The players have been very professional, all very switched on. We’ve not had to put a policy on the boys.
“We had a social night early on in the tour but that was very helpful for bonding.”
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Anthony Watson has fully recovered after taking a heavy blow to the head that earned Sonny Bill Williams a red card in Saturday’s second Test.
The England wing passed a head injury assessment (HIA) and returned to action in Wellington, and has now been cleared to feature in the series decider.
Lions medical chief, Dr Eanna Falvey, confirmed Watson is good to go for Saturday.
“He was very good actually,” Dr Falvey said of Watson. “He came right through the process. He took a considerable bang. But he completed the pitch-side HIA fine, and since then has been good as well.
“It’s difficult because people get bangs on the head all the time, and you can get a bang on the head without getting a concussion.
“But if they do, the safest thing to do is to remove them, and review everything.”
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