WARREN GATLAND slapped a HUGGING ban on his Lions after Gareth Southgate’s England aces Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell were forced into Covid isolation.
Lions boss Gatland reminded his 37-man squad of the importance of staying Covid safe ahead of their trip to South Africa.
Lions boss Gatland warned his stars not to hug to stay free from Covid[/caption]
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell are self-isolating after coming into close contact with Scotland’s Billy Gilmour[/caption]
So far the home nations have managed to keep their international games free from Covid.
But the tale of Scotland’s coronavirus-hit Billy Gilmour hugging his Chelsea team-mates Mount and Chilwell after their Wembley match has been a reminder to stay safe.
The Kiwi coach said: “The players that have had a couple of campaigns in the autumn and Six Nations – they were pretty good in terms of staying Covid free.
“So we have to make sure we adhere to the protocols and that there is no hugging.”
Meanwhile Owen Farrell has been given a huge backing by his Lions team-mates and international rivals who unanimously voted him onto their leadership group.
The England captain, who tanked at this Six Nations as his country slumped to their worst ever tournament finish, was the most-voted for player in a blind ballot polled by Gatland.
So three-times tourist Farrell will be a key general for skipper Alun Wyn Jones in South Africa and even made it onto the bench to face Japan on Saturday – despite only training for the first time on Monday.
Gatland said: “I’ve spoken to Owen and the chat was about it not being the greatest Six Nations, but we picked him on the leadership and experience that he can bring to the group.
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“He is a fantastic competitor and what he has achieved and his success speaks for itself.
“We did an administration day and I asked the players to pick a leadership group, which we have done.
“I thought it was interesting that he ended up with the most votes out of anyone in the leadership group.
“So that speaks volumes for the respect in which he is held by all the players in the group, not just the England players.
“Knowing him as a competitor he will go out and make the most of his opportunities and I expect him to have a great tour.”
Gatland handed four Scotland stars dream starts in Murrayfield – but kept his England contingent on the bench for just the third match on home soil
Farrell’s Saracens teammate Jamie George joins him amongst the subs with Courtney Lawes and Anthony Watson also set to play in front of 16,500 fans at Murrayfield.
Six Nations top scorer Duhan van der Merwe starts on the left wing and the Championships’s player of the tournament Hamish Watson is at open side.
Props Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson make the Celtic-strong starting XV that is captained by Alun Wyn Jones.
Fly-half Dan Biggar and Conor Murray are the pairing at half-backs with the fearsome-looking duo of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw in the centres.
Van der Merwe is joined in the back three by Dragons pair Josh Adams and fullback Liam Williams.
The pack is completed by hooker Ken Owens, lock Iain Henderson and no.8 Jack Conan.