“You’ve Got A Licence From Me To Go And Get Your Hands On The Ball And Express Yourself.”
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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has given his exciting back-row combination of Tom Curry, Josh Navidi and Sam Simmonds “licence” to get their “hands on the ball” and express themselves on Wednesday against the Sharks.
Gatland revealed on Saturday after the win over the Sigman Lions that the trio would be starting, in a move that has fans really excited given how explosive all three can be both on and off the ball.
The back-row is probably one of the most competitive areas in the Lions squad at the moment and getting that balance right will be huge against the Springboks who have one of the toughest packs in world rugby.
Gatland knows the trio aren’t “renowned as lineout experts” but is exciting to see them play to their strengths against the Sharks as they look to push for a Test spot.
“There’s a huge amount of competition in the back-row,” Gatland said.
“I spoke to them all last night and just said ‘look, you’ve got a licence from me to go and get your hands on the ball and express yourself’
“I said ‘you’re probably not renowned as lineout experts but you’ve got to play to your strengths’ and obviously they’re strong defenders and ball carriers.
“It’s a different aspect to look at but it’s pretty exciting to look and I’m looking forward to seeing how they go as a trio.”
Ireland international Iain Henderson will captain the Lions on Wednesday and Gatland said picking the Ulsterman to lead them out was a “natural fit” given his “experience and stature” in the game.
“His experience, being a previous Lions tourist, captain of Ulster and [captained] Ireland as well,” Gatland said when what makes Henderson a good fit to captain the Lions.
“He just brings a calm approach to it and he’s well aware there are other experienced players in the side and leaders in the side that are gonna be there to support him.
“I think there are a couple of other players we could have looked at but I thought that Iain was an obvious choice for us given his experience and stature in the game.
“I spoke to Andy Farrell during the Six Nations and he was full of praise for Iain and his leadership and what he was bringing to the Ireland side so it was a natural fit for us.”
“And a great honour for him too.”