Edwards says Lions must focus on defence

Tue, Jun 2, 2009, 01:00

Lions Tour:Defence around the lineout will be a key factor for the British and Irish Lions in the upcoming series against the Springboks, according to assistant coach Shaun Edwards.

Edwards, the Lions's defence coach, told a news conference this was an area that had been exposed in the opening game against the Royal Highveld XV in Rustenburg on Saturday.

The Highveld XV scored three tries and were only edged out by two late tries by the tourists, whose 37-25 winning margin flattered them.

"It was obvious we weren't able to defend the drive," Edwards said today. "The defensive lapses on Saturday were partly the result of the players not having played for four or five weeks.

"Our second half was better and we've worked hard on our defence this week. Our defence at the lineouts will be better as we hadn't really worked on that before last Saturday's match. But we won't be able to afford any lapses come the tests. We must play for 80 minutes against the Gauteng Lions on Wednesday.

"The only way to put it right is on the pitch in the next game. But if we leak more soft tries I will be very upset."

Edwards said the Springbok team announced last night reflected the abundance of top players in South Africa.

"They have skills from number 15 to number one. It is the ultimate challenge to win in South Africa and we have seven weeks to come together against the world champions, while they have a set of players that has been together for seven years.

"Our defence has to improve. The players are an extension of me on the field. I'm with them in spirit and I take it personally when people score against us."

The Lions also announced that Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny had arrived in South Africa having completed his rehabilitation with the Cardiff medical team.

"We are delighted that Leigh has rejoined the group, having seen the medical team this morning they have confirmed that he has arrived fully fit and so is available for selection following tomorrow night's game," said Lions manager Gerald Davies.