Lions coach Gatland confident tour will continue after 'surreal' day

By Sports Desk July 07, 2021

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland insisted he is not concerned about the viability of his side's tour of South Africa, despite a coronavirus outbreak hitting his squad just hours before their 54-7 win over Sharks.

One member of Gatland's playing squad and one of his management team tested positive for Covid-19, prompting the Lions boss to make eight changes to his matchday squad.

He handed debuts to Tom Curry, Josh Navidi and Adam Beard and saw the trio contribute to a confident performance in which Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe scored three tries each.

Asked whether he had experienced another day like it, Gatland told reporters: "No not really. It's been surreal. A real challenge.

"Players were in rooms until 6pm. I'm proud of performance and how they adjusted.

"I came away thinking I was proud of the togetherness of the group more than the performance or result.

"My message to the players is let's use this as a positive. Nothing is going to phase us.

"We had to go with the flow. We had to adapt and then change. The players were outstanding in their approach."

The Lions' clash with Bulls was postponed before the game, and positive coronavirus tests in the Springboks and Bulls camps have cast the entire tour into doubt.

But Gatland is confident it remains viable, saying: "We've been incredibly vigilant with what we’ve been doing for the last four weeks.

"The most challenging thing was the hotel. All our tests had been negative until today.

"We'll address it as it goes. We knew there'd be certain challenges."

On the prospect of arranging a replacement fixture for the Bulls game on Saturday, Gatland added: "I need to talk to the medical team about that.

"We'll talk about the chance of a game. We'll need to wait on the close contacts and see how the players from today are.

"Josh Adams has started three games so he needs a rest. These players have fronted up."

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