The British & Irish Lions hooker Ken Owens believes the strict Covid-19 restrictions facing the squad can act as a strength rather than a weakness for the upcoming tour of South Africa. Training got under way on Monday for the 26 players who have arrived at the Lions’ pre-tour training base in Jersey and Owens insists the biosecure bubble will make team-bonding easier.
Last night the Lions were due to allocate key responsibilities including overseeing entertainment and laundry while, as was the case four years ago, choir practice is expected to be introduced again.
The Lions will be based in Jersey until flying to Edinburgh for the warm-up match against Japan next Saturday and then on to South Africa. If they have to quarantine upon their return at the end of the tour they will spend 10 weeks in a bubble environment with Gatland recently warning: “The rugby side takes care of itself, so it’s important we get the other stuff right and think about the players’ mental health.”
During the Six Nations, Ellis Genge was among the players to speak out about how difficult life in the bubble was and while there will be a brief period of respite in Jersey, the squad is still isolating in the hotel, having arrived on Sunday. “We are lucky in some ways because we are in a bubble and we’re very tight together,” Owens said.
“It’s easier to get those social connections going because you don’t have people drifting off here, there and everywhere. We are restricted to what we can do. Obviously we are not sharing rooms so we do tend to spend a lot more time down around the team room, because you don’t want to be isolated.”
While Euro 2020 is already providing a welcome distraction, choir practice is soon to be a prerequisite, as was the case four years ago before the tour to New Zealand. Owens, who played a leading role in 2017, said: “It is an opportunity to learn about the culture of the other nations and it is a way of having a bit of fun as well and spending half an hour in the evening just having a bit of a laugh and a get-together.”
England have called up the Wasps hooker Gabriel Oghre after Jack Singleton was unable to meet up at the start of their camp on Monday after he was identified as a close contact of someone who had tested positive for Covid-19. Oghre becomes the 22nd uncapped member of a callow squad, ready to be bolstered by losing semi-finalists next week. Exeter, meanwhile, could be without Sam Skinner and Dave Ewers for their semi-final against Sale with both facing a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday night.
The former Gloucester and Bristol centre Jack Adams has died from cancer, aged 34. Adams made his Gloucester debut in 2005 and went on to accumulate 35 appearances for the Kingsholm club. “Everyone connected to Gloucester is deeply saddened to hear the news of Jack Adams passing over the weekend,” read a Gloucester statement. “The outpouring of love and support from the wider rugby community over the last few days goes to show just how adored Jack was as a person.”