Warren Gatland says looking after the mental health of his British & Irish Lions players could be his toughest challenge as they prepare for up to 10 weeks in a bio-bubble.
‘The big challenge for us is being in the bubble in South Africa and potentially having to quarantine when we come back,’ the Lions coach said. ‘If you add in the two-week camp before we go it could be up to 10 weeks away and in a bubble.
‘The rugby side takes care of itself, so it’s important we get the other stuff right and think about the players’ well-being and mental health. The rugby’s going to be the easy part. We need to get the other stuff right and then we’ve got a chance of performing on the field.’
The tourists hope to publish their revised schedule for South Africa next week with the eight fixtures culminating in a three-Test series against the world champion Springboks now taking place in Johannesburg and Cape Town only, reducing travel during the pandemic.
‘The safety of the players is paramount and the mental health of the players comes first,’ said Gatland. ‘Being in that bubble, being away from family, it will be about making sure we stay connected with our families.
‘We’ll have to keep the players entertained, put things on for them –competitions, pool, darts, cards, casino nights, sing-songs, quizzes. We’ve got to be creative in that area.
‘We’ll probably continue with the singing and choir practice that we’ve done in the past. That was successful for us. Those kinds of things are something that we need to get right.’
Squad members, including those with no remaining English Premiership commitments, will meet for a training camp in Jersey in mid-June and return from South Africa on 9 August.