British & Irish Lions flanker Courtney Lawes has stated that his side will look to lay down a marker in their first game on tour and impose themselves physically upon the Sigma Lions.
Lawes has said that he expects the Johannesburg side to be fired up for the challenge but expects the experience of his own side to win out.
“I think it is important first game out here to put a good step forward and show what we’re about and what we’re going to be about this tour. And come the Tests what type of pack we are going to be. We want to get out there and show what we can do.
“Regardless of who you play they’ll be gunning for you. They’re so up for it and they want to get stuck into you. We’ll be looking to impose our own physicality on the game. We’ve got good experience in our back row and across the squad so hopefully that can come through.”
Lawes was one of Gatland’s more unexpected Lions pick as he had spent most of the season sidelined with injury. Lawes has said that he is finding form now and was grateful to be selected despite not having played much rugby this year.
“I’m feeling really good. I’m incredibly appreciative to get the opportunity on such a massive stage. It’s humbling to get that call up while still injured and it’s good to hit the ground running now.
“I can’t wait to get out there, I’m feeling really good and have a good training week.”
Although named at blindside for Saturday’s clash, Lawes is also capable of playing in the second row. When pressed on whether he had settled on a favoured position, Lawes stressed that it was ultimately up to Warren Gatland and his team.
“I’m just going to play how I play regardless of position and then its up to the coaches: where they see me and where they want to play me. All I can do is go out and play the best I can.”
The big news recently emerging has been that Welsh veteran Alun Wyn Jones could yet be fit in time for the Tests against South Africa. Lawes stated that while it would be a boon for the Lions to have him back, they did not lack for leadership.
“He [Jones] seemed to be feeling like he was out, but obviously if we can get him back it would be great. He’s a great bloke and an amazing captain.
“We are fortunate here that we’ve got so many good leaders. So many captains and so many players who’ve played in big matches and can step up.”
The 2021 Lions Series will have a very different feel to it as it will, in all likelihood, take place behind closed doors. Lawes said that the presence of fans would be sorely missed.
“I think my most memorable thing from the last tour was how amazing the fans were. I’d never seen anything like it. Their dedication was incredible, I don’t think there’s anything else like it in sport.
“Obviously we’re missing that and it’s a massive shame but we have to make the most of it.”