Here are your rugby morning headlines for Monday, July 26.
‘Gatland eating Erasmus for breakfast’
England’s World Cup-winning head coach Clive Woodward has insisted the Lions are beating the Springboks in the coaching stakes and that’s paying dividends on the field.
During the last few weeks, we’ve encountered a peculiar situation that has seen Rassie Erasmus – South Africa’s director of rugby – running water onto the field during matches and delivering messages to his team.
Woodward feels Erasmus’ involvement is undermining head coach Jacques Nienaber and confusing matters.
“I put that entirely down to their coaching dynamic. Warren Gatland and his backroom team were in a different league,” Woodward wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
“It is clear that Erasmus has started taking over again, he is running around in a tracksuit and donning the water carrier bib even though – as Gatland observed last week – he never seems to dispense any water, nor even carry a bottle. He never forgets his clipboard, though.
“It looked comical, it was comical, and I am surprised South African Rugby are allowing it to happen.
“Erasmus is still coaching the team in all but name, but that’s not his job. He needs to butt out.
“His job now is to appoint the coaching team and let them get on with it, offering advice when asked but no more. He has become centre stage again. All the pre-match banter is conducted between him and Gatland – and Warren is eating him for breakfast.”
You can read Erasmus’ latest outburst here.
Pick your Lions team for the second Test
Injury latest on Biggar and Jones
Lions boss Gatland has issued a bit of an injury update on Dan Biggar and Wyn Jones after the first Test.
Jones was a late withdrawal from the match with a shoulder problem, while Biggar failed a head injury assessment midway through the second half.
The fly-half is now touch-and-go for the second Test, having to go through World Rugby’s strict return to play protocols to ensure he is fit enough to take the field.
“Dan got a knock and he has to go through the HIA protocols, he’s passed his first one.
“He’d be non-contact early in the week and wouldn’t take part in contact until Thursday if he’s selected.
“Wyn has had a bit of a sore shoulder and he got a bit of an infection in his shoulder so has been on antibiotics. Hopefully he will recover from that. It was a massive blow for him, but Rory came on and did a good job.
“We have been really pleased with Mako. And I was really honest with him and just said: ‘Mate, I didn’t feel when you came into the squad that your fitness levels are as good as they should be for international rugby.’
“He agreed with me and we have changed a bit of his scrummaging technique and he has made a huge impact coming off the bench.
“He has scrummaged exceptionally well, carries great, is a great defender and we will see what happens over the next few days.
“I really felt for Wyn missing out, but I wasn’t in any way worried about Mako coming in and being a replacement off the bench.”
Itoje learning from history
Lions lock Maro Itoje has warned his team-mates that the job is far from done, as history shows us.
The tourists took a 1-0 lead against South Africa on Saturday night but they achieved the same feat in 2001, thumped Australia 29-13 only to go on and lose the final two Tests.
Itoje is a man all to aware of what can still unfold.
READ MORE: Furious South African media hit out over officials in Lions victory
READ MORE: The likely Lions XV for second Test against Springboks
“Obviously this was a great win, but I’m a man who likes to look at history and see how other tours have unfolded,” he said.
“Looking at the 2001 Tests in Australia, they won the first Test quite convincingly and then went on to lose the next two.
“Winning a Test match with the Lions is rare. We only play once every four years and it’s unique, but this win will mean nothing unless we go out and win next weekend.
“So while this is a great win I’m proud to be part of, we know that we need to do a job next weekend. That’s when it really counts.”
Matt Dawson lauds ‘magnificent’ Welshman
Former England and Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson has hailed the impact Ken Owens had off the bench in Saturday’s win over the Springboks.
Warren Gatland opted for Luke Cowan-Dicke in the No.2 shirt for the first Test, however the England and Exeter hooker endured a shaky first half.
Wales hooker Owens, however, made a difference when he was introduced and has pressed his case for starting spot next weekend.
And Dawson has namechecked the Scarlets man, as well as Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje, as one of the players who stood out in that tense opening-Test win.
He did, though, suggest that Gatland should not make any changes if he doesn’t have to.
“Ian McGeechan spoke all those years ago about Test match animals and no truer word has been said – Gatland knows that about Courtney Lawes,” Dawson wrote in his BBC column.
“The Lions brings out certain individuals that just fill the jersey, it triggers something in them.
“Lawes played like a man possessed. Both he and Itoje were just epic and Ken Owens was magnificent when he came on.
“The Lions bench was so strong, particularly Owen Farrell and Conor Murray, who came on when the game loosened up a bit and brought the calmness that was needed to see it out.
“All in all, I would be really surprised if Gatland makes unforced changes. You win a Test match for the Lions, you deserve to be playing next week.”
Bullish Faf de Klerk issues warning to Lions
Faf de Klerk has fired a warning to the Lions that South Africa will bite back next weekend.
De Klerk was the Springboks’ only try-scorer in Saturday’s 22-17 triumph by the Lions, but the hosts’ sloppy ending to the game was ultimately their downfall.
And the scrum-half has insisted those errors will not be made again next weekend as South Africa bid to level the series.
“We are a proud team and nation, and we’ll definitely make sure we rectify the errors that we made,” he said.
“We’ll come back with a bit more fire in our belly and a bit more anger, although we need to control that to make sure our discipline is in check.
“I think if our discipline is good and we can sort out our aerial battle, we should be good going forward. That said, it’s going to be another massive challenge next week and we are looking forward to it.
“We are wounded Springboks, and we have our backs against the wall, so we can fight our way out of that.”
De Klerk also suggested that the Lions’ depth was a big factor in the opening clash.
“The Lions were certainly not better than I thought,” he added.
“They are a quality side, and in their case the guy coming off the bench is probably as good, if not better, than the guy starting so that’s a challenge we have to face.
“The guys are very disappointed and gutted. We really wanted to win the first one, but it is a three-Test series, and we have to hold our heads up high.
“There were a lot of learnings from this game, but we need to take this on the chin and move forward.”
Swansea RFC women forced to fold
Swansea RFC women have been forced to fold with the club citing a number of reasons that are “out of our control”.
The team had been the WRU Women’s Cup winners in 2018/19, but just two years later they have announced on Twitter that the team will be no more.
“More than 10 players forced to leave and with others naturally moving on, we have been left with no choice,” the short statement said.
“With a heavy heart we are sad to announce that Swansea Women’s RFC are no more.
“It goes without saying this wasn’t an easy decision, however following the position our international players were put in to play across the border or risk their position in a World Cup squad and then numerous players moving away, retiring or not being able to commit we were left with no choice.”
SPECIAL EVENT: A virtual evening with Mike Phillips and Adam Jones on July 29 – Submit your questions here…