sport news The Lions are laughing at six and seven and Warren Gatland has a welcome problem

sport news The Lions are laughing at six and seven and Warren Gatland has a welcome problem
sport news The Lions are laughing at six and seven and Warren Gatland has a welcome problem

In the midst of tour chaos, Tom Curry is ready to make his Lions debut on Wednesday - and the England flanker’s first appearance will add further intrigue to the fiercest battle for Test places.

While Covid turmoil rages around them, Warren Gatland and his squad have to stay focused on the business in hand on the assumption that it will proceed.

The task for the tourists is to beat the Sharks at Ellis Park and add another layer of organisation, cohesion and confidence ahead of three encounters with South Africa.

Tom Curry is ready to make his Lions debut and add intrigue to the fierce battle for Test places

Tom Curry is ready to make his Lions debut and add intrigue to the fierce battle for Test places

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Then the task for Gatland and his assistant coaches will be to sift through the latest evidence after all their players have been given a start and gauge the impact on their plans for that Test series against the Boks.

There will be many selection debates in the next fortnight or so, but nowhere are there more supreme candidates closely vying with each other than in the back row.

Justin Tipuric was ruled out after suffering an injury against Japan, but Tadhg Beirne, Courtney Lawes and Hamish Watson have all excelled. The latter was man of the match in the demolition of Gauteng’s out-classed Lions on Saturday.

Hamish Watson (centre) has excelled after Justin Tipuric was ruled out after suffering an injury

Hamish Watson (centre) has excelled after Justin Tipuric was ruled out after suffering an injury

The Scotland openside made a statement in that game and now Curry must seek to do the same.

He has only recently turned 23, but the Sale star is already a stalwart of the England pack and acclaimed as one of the best players in the world.

Before the tour began, he was widely seen as a near shoo-in for the Test XV, but Watson has staked a compelling claim.

First and foremost, Curry is relishing a personal landmark - wearing the fabled red shirt.

Curry is relishing a personal landmark of wearing the fabled red shirt, but over-exerted himself

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Curry is relishing a personal landmark of wearing the fabled red shirt, but over-exerted himself

‘The opportunity has finally come so I can’t wait to get out there,’ he said. ‘It’s about doing what I love and playing for a team I’ve dreamed about.’

Such was his desire to be involved, he over-exerted himself in the gym and suffered a minor pectoral strain, leading to a debut delay. Asked if he had been worried, Curry said: ‘Yeah, a little bit. I got a bit excited on a bench-press! But it’s probably a good thing, to put me back in check.’

While those outside the squad regard every game in the context of what it means for Test selection, Curry railed against that.

He is determined to emphasise the collective agenda of series success, whoever is chosen to make it happen. He is at pains to identify the other flankers in the squad as co-operative comrades, not rivals.

Tadhg Beirne's selection at six against Japan hinted at Warren Gatland seeking good balance

Tadhg Beirne's selection at six

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