Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Time for Lions to Get Serious Now; Johnson:show Must Get Back on the Road

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's Time for Lions to Get Serious Now; Johnson:show Must Get Back on the Road

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

Captain Martin Johnson surveyed the wreckage of an awful build- up to tomorrow's clash with New South Wales here and admitted: "This could be the defining week of the Lions tour."

Against a backdrop of the white sands and blue skies of their Manly seafront base, Johnson has seen a gathering gloom descend on the tour party as first Mike Catt and then Dan Luger were ruled out by serious injury.

Those body blows came in the wake of Tuesday's depressing first tour loss to Australia A in Gosford. Suddenly a squad that couldn't stop scoring was having to deal with a multitude of problems.

The Lions have attempted to lift their spirits by agreeing to pose in various picture opportunity moments, involving beach volleyball in the winter sunshine, helicopter rides around Sydney harbour and surfing off Manly.

Just when it appeared these moments of relaxation had helped overcome the defeat at Gosford and Catt's departure, along came the training accident which left Luger with three hairline fractures of his right eye socket.

Johnson said: "This could be the defining week of the Lions tour because you don't want to lose one game, let alone two, and it means we have to get the show back on the road against New South Wales.

"You feel so bad when players have to leave the tour early, but the rest of the party has to get on with it and the arrival of Scott Gibbs, as replacement for Catty, has helped because he's such an enthusiastic guy. It has been a disappointing week and the way to bounce back is to get another win against NSW who are a powerful Super 12 side."

The current tour record shows three wins and a defeat when most pundits expected the Lions to arrive at this point of the trip unbeaten and hugely confident a week away from the First Test in Brisbane on 30 June.

Now, it is up to Johnson and what looks very close to the Test XV to regain lost ground and prove to the doubters that a Test series triumph is still possible. …

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