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."

The British and Irish Lions brushed off uncertainty threatening to engulf their tour as they made it two emphatic wins from two matches in South Africa with a 7-54 win over Sharks in Johannesburg.

After two members of the Lions staff tested positive for Covid-19 hours before kick-off, ruling eight members of the squad out of the game, Warren Gatland gave debuts to Tom Curry, Josh Navidi and Adam Beard.

Three tries each for Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe ensured Gatland's patchwork side made light work of a defensively frail Sharks team.

Further tries from Bundee Aki and Louis Rees-Zammit and composed kicking by Owen Farrell and Finn Russell gave the Lions a scoreline that will keep morale in the camp high despite the uncertainty shrouding the tour.

Adams made it six tries in three matches before a neat attacking move saw Van der Merwe round Thaakir Abrahams to go over, with Farrell converting both to give the Lions a 14-point lead inside seven minutes.

Farrell sent a superbly weighted grubber deep into Sharks territory where Van der Merwe beat Elliot Daly to the ball and touched down to make it 0-19.

A fine half of attacking rugby was capped with a fourth try when Luke Cowan-Dickie drove Sharks back before Aki forced his way past James Venter and made his first score for the Lions, and Farrell converted to make it 0-26 at half-time.

Sharks improved after the interval and pulled a try back through Venter, who could not be stopped down the right touchline and went over before Curwin Bosch converted.

Farrell, struggling with a shoulder injury, was replaced shortly before Adams capitalised on a Marius Louw error, hacking on to score a try that Russell converted.

Adams fed Rees-Zammit, who showed his electric pace to score under the posts and Russell converted to make it 40-7 with 20 minutes left, and Van der Merwe completed his hat-trick when Daly's clever pass put him through in the corner.

Two minutes from time, Adams emulated his team-mate, scoring his third of the game after good hands in midfield from Beard and Taulupe Faletau.

Lions continue to roar, for now

Should the outbreak of coronavirus in the Lions camp spread beyond the two positives already detected, the uplift from this result may be shortlived. 

What's more, Gatland has injuries to Farrell (shoulder), Rees-Zammit (hamstring) and Navidi (shin) to contend with.

Simmonds makes his mark

Sam Simmonds went into the game determined to make a point to England head coach Eddie Jones, who has not rewarded his outstanding performances for Exeter Chiefs. 

The number eight had a superb first half, making more carries (six) than any other Lions forward, and only Josh Adams (31m) and Elliot Daly (51m) made more metres than his 30.

Denmark and England have joined Italy and Spain in the semi-finals of Euro 2020, with the Czech Republic and Ukraine sent packing following their respective defeats.

England seemed to back up pre-tournament suggestions of them being among the favourites when they dumped Germany out in the last 16, and they picked up where they left off to make light work of Ukraine.

It was a slightly trickier occasion for Denmark in Baku earlier in the day, though ultimately the efforts of Patrik Schick weren't enough for the Czechs as they failed to emulate the 2004 vintage that reached the last four.

Following the conclusion of the quarter-finals, Stats Perform looks at the key data takeaways from Saturday's action.

 

Ukraine 0-4 England: Record-breaking Three Lions ruthless in big win

The odds were stacked against Ukraine ahead of this clash in Rome, but even the most ardent England fans probably wouldn't have predicted such a comprehensive win.

England quickly had the advantage as Raheem Sterling sliced open the defence and fed Harry Kane to open the scoring with three minutes and 32 seconds played, their earliest Euros goal since 2004 (2:25).

Ukraine may have taken some encouragement from the fact England's previous record when scoring in the first four minutes of a Euros game equated to no wins from five matches, but the game was effectively put beyond them within a four minutes of the restart – Harry Maguire and Kane nodding home Luke Shaw deliveries.

 

The Manchester United full-back reached three assists for the tournament in the process, tying an England record for a single European Championship (David Beckham, Euro 2000), while Kane's second of the game means he is level with Alan Shearer on nine major-tournament goals for the Three Lions, behind only Gary Lineker (10).

Jordan Henderson then completed the scoring off the bench with his first senior goal on his 62nd appearance, the longest ever wait by a player before breaking their duck for the Three Lions.

Ukraine's inability to breach the England defence meant the Three Lions have now kept seven successive clean sheets for the first time in their history.

But most impressively of all, this was England's biggest-ever win at the Euros and largest victory in the knockouts of any major tournament.

 

Czech Republic 1-2 Denmark: Schick ties with Ronaldo but Danes seal historic semi-final

Given their run in Euro 2020 has come against the backdrop of Christian Eriksen's health emergency on matchday one, it's little wonder Denmark have seemingly become the neutrals' favourites.

They moved a step close to emulating their remarkable Euro 92 success as they edged past the Czech Republic. Their 29-year gap between Euros semi-finals is the longest ever by a single nation in the competitions.

They prevailed despite the efforts of Patrik Schick. The striker got the Czechs back into the encounter with a tidy second-half finish that made him only the fourth player to score five goals in a single major tournament for Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, also drawing him level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the golden boot.

 

Earlier, though, Denmark had enjoyed a great start as Thomas Delaney headed in Denmark's second-earliest Euros goal (4:52) to level the country's all-time record for goals (10) at a single major tournament.

That record was then broken just before the break. Kasper Dolberg became Denmark's joint-top scorer in Euros history (three) with the effort that proved decisive, though Joakim Maehle's assist got most of the attention.

His outside-of-the-boot cross took him to three goal involvements (two goals, one assist) in his past three Denmark games, more than in his other 12.

Denmark certainly didn't have it all their own way, with the Czechs' 16 shots more than they managed in any other Euro 2020 game, but Kasper Hjulmand's men held firm to secure their passage to Wembley.

 

 

Warren Gatland could not find too much to complain about after the British and Irish Lions made a brilliant start to their tour of South Africa, but says his team will not be 100 per cent satisfied.

Gatland's team beat the Lions 56-14 on Saturday, with winger Josh Adams running in four of their eight tries. 

Their points tally was the most in a match since they beat a combined New South Wales–Queensland Country 64-0 in 2013 – it was also their largest margin of victory since that match.

They are now unbeaten in their last five games (W3 D2), their best run since winning six in a row across the 2009 and 2013 tours.

Though content with how the tourists started their trip – in a match which was played behind closed doors – Gatland insists he has instilled a mentality of never being satisfied.

"You cannot complain. We've been getting better and better as a squad the more time we spend together," the former Wales coach said.

"We've put down a bit of a marker but as a group we won't be 100 per cent satisfied, there are still lots of improvements but we feel we can get there and makes lots of improvements too.

"The bench brought some energy but we had to adjust the way we wanted to play because they didn't pressure us as much with the blitz that we had expected, so we changed the way we played and that was a pretty good reaction.

"I was just really pleased with the energy out there, the guys working hard when they made a few breaks. We made a few mistakes and they were hard to get the ball off, but it was a really positive start."

Welshman Adams was the star of the show, as he became the first player to score four tries for the British and Irish Lions since Shane Williams went over five times against Manawatu in 2005.

Adams, who made five clean breaks in this game – the first player to do so since Williams managed six against South Africa in 2009 – has now scored a try in each of his last five games for Wales and the Lions combined.

"I thought the guy on the left wing did okay today," quipped Gatland.

Three debutants marked their British and Irish Lions bows with tries and Josh Adams added four in a dominant 56-14 win over the Lions in Johannesburg.

In their first tour match since landing in South Africa, Warren Gatland's men were comfortable from the outset thanks to the first contributions from Louis Rees-Zammit and Hamish Watson on Saturday.

Ali Price crossed for a third try before the break – the sixth first-half effort across two matches, already as many as the British and Irish Lions had in the entirety of the 2017 tour to New Zealand.

The scoring was not slowed by the interval, as a quartet of Adams finishes continued his own impressive form ahead of the South Africa Tests and Gareth Davies also got a breakthrough try from the bench.

Chris Harris, another of the four new faces in the XV, was heavily involved in a rapid start from the touring side.

His chip found Rees-Zammit, who was too quick and strong for his opponents and able to race through, and one try quickly became two as Watson barged under the posts.

The pace of the game slowed a little thereafter, but the hosts were caught dozing as Price dashed in following a long line-out throw.

A powerful run from Vincent Tshituka got the Lions on the scoresheet and they remained just about in touch at the break as a Wyn Jones try was chalked off due to foul play from Courtney Lawes.

It was only a temporary setback as Adams was through almost straight from the restart, although Francke Horn soon found space to feed Rabz Maxwane for a Lions riposte.

Finn Russell's pinpoint kick found a leaping Adams for another try and the British and Irish Lions picked off their tiring opponents.

Davies added his name to the scoresheet soon after his introduction and then Adams was twice left all alone on the left wing, completing his hat-trick and then getting a fourth.

Starting in style... again

The British and Irish Lions have now won their first game after arriving in South Africa on seven consecutive tours. The prior six victories came by an average margin of 23 points.

This triumph came as little surprise then, with the travelling side having lost only one of their past 57 tour games in South Africa – excluding Springboks Tests.

Louis looks the part

Rees-Zammit is still only 20 but has seamlessly adapted to each step in his career so far, becoming Wales' youngest try scorer in eight years against Georgia last November.

His British and Irish Lions bow was typically assured, helped by the early link-up with Gloucester team-mate Harris.

Chris Harris says the British and Irish Lions are "looking sharp" as they head into the first match of their South Africa tour.

The tourists face South Africa's own Lions, the Johannesburg-based team, on Saturday at Ellis Park.

Warren Gatland's team have a proud record to uphold, with the British and Irish Lions having won their first game after arriving in South Africa on each of their last six tours there.

Those victories have come by an average margin of 23 points –with their last such defeat a 9-6 setback in 1955 against Western Transvaal.

Scotland back Harris is set to make his debut for the visitors tomorrow as a much-changed team attempt to build on last weekend's win over Japan at Murrayfield.

The British and Irish Lions have never played the Lions previously but have taken on the affiliated Golden Lions, Johannesburg’s provincial side, and won each of their last four such games, most recently dishing out a 74-10 thrashing in 2009.

Only once have the travelling Lions won more heavily in South Africa, when dishing out a 97-0 thrashing to South Western Districts in 1974.

"It's an absolute honour to be puling on the jersey for the first time," Harris said on Friday. "I'm absolutely buzzing.

"It's pretty surreal to go from playing at university and working my way up through Newcastle and then representing Scotland, and this is just amazing to be able to pull on that jersey.

"I'm looking forward to it and it's a challenge I'm willing to relish. We got off to a really good start against Japan, but we're here to hit the ground running here in South Africa with another win.

"It's a new team, new combinations, but we've had a good week or two training together and we're looking sharp."

 

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg will captain Gatland's team and was described as "a brilliant leader" by Harris.

"But he's also got plenty of brilliant leaders alongside him to help him along the way," said Harris, who will partner England skipper Owen Farrell in the midfield. "I think it will be a good game for him to start his captaincy as a Lions player."

Alun Wyn Jones was due to captain the Lions but was unable to make the tour after dislocating his shoulder against Japan.

His fellow Welshman and near-namesake Wyn Jones believes the British and Irish Lions being largely isolated in a team hotel while in South Africa need not be a hindrance.

"You've got to make it to your advantage," Jones said. "We're a close team now and I think the bubble's brought us closer. We spend a lot of time together and that can only be an advantage. We're having a good time together despite not being able to leave the hotel."


RUSSELL OUT TO MAKE AN IMPACT

The battle for the starting Test fly-half role is on, with Finn Russell the latest to get the chance to persuade Gatland he should play from the off in the first Test on July 24 in Cape Town.

Dan Biggar seized his chance last time out, being named man of the match against Japan, and Farrell is a contender for the role too, but Russell is certainly in with a strong shout, and these tour matches are opportunities to deliver persuasive performances.

It should help Russell to have Scotland team-mate Ali Price at scrum-half, and Hogg as skipper.

EARLY CHANCE TO PROVE PACK'S STRENGTH

The visiting Lions can expect a robust welcome to South Africa, and Gatland will look for his team as a whole, not least the forwards, to show they are up for the battle ahead.

Prop Jones is keen to make an early impact and said in Friday's news conference: "We know what South Africa bring. They'll be a big pack and every team we face out here there'll be a big front five.

"As a prop, it's a challenge that I'm looking forward to and I can't wait to get into."


British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (captain), Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Owen Farrell, Josh Adams, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Hamish Watson, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly.

Lions: EW Viljoen, Jamba Ulengo, Manuel Rass, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit; Nathan McBeth, PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel, Sbusiso Sangweni, Vincent Tshituka, Francke Horn (captain).

Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole, Carlu Sadie, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morne van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Excluding their Test matches against the Springboks, the British and Irish Lions have suffered just one defeat in their 56 tour matches on South African soil since losing to Transvaal in 1968 (W54, D1), with the solitary defeat in that run coming against Northern Transvaal in 1997.

- The Lions won just one of their five completed matches in this year's Rainbow Cup SA (L4), against the Bulls in round four; their three games at Emirates Airlines Park saw an average of 66 points and nine tries scored per game (W1 L2).

- The Lions averaged the most carries (103) and passes (125) per game of any team in this year's Rainbow Cup SA, averaging 16 minutes and 35 seconds in possession per match, more than any other side; however, they gained the fewest metres (350) and beat the fewest defenders (19) on average.

- Finn Russell assisted 12 tries in the Top 14 for Racing 92 in the 2020-21 season, more than any other player in the league, and a competition-high four of those assists came from kicks.

- Sam Simmonds scored 21 tries for Exeter Chiefs in the recently concluded English Premiership, the most any player has managed for any side in an edition of the competition. He also topped the charts for carries (263), was the only forward to gain 1,000-plus metres, made the second most tackles (234) and beat the second most defenders (63) of any player.

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