The British and Irish Lions took the unusual decision this week to hold off training until Wednesday ahead of the third Test against the All Blacks and have instead been enjoying a few days of rest and recovery in Queenstown.
Jet boating and bungee jumping were on the menu for the Lions players on Tuesday as they explored the activities on offer in the south-west city, with a gym session squeezed in to make sure the players aren’t completely switching off ahead of Saturday’s series decider.
Both Sam Warburton and Maro Itoje were among those who enjoyed a ride on jet boat across Lake Wakatipu against a beautiful backdrop of the Southern Alps, while Taulupe Faletau, Jack Nowell and George Kruis all took on the terrifying Nevis Bungee Jump just four days before the biggest game of their lives.
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“We’ve given the boys a couple of days off, and they’ve been enjoying some activities,” said strength and conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon on Tuesday. “A bit of mental and physical recovery, start training tomorrow to be ready to go for the weekend.
“The tour’s been very arduous for the boys, every day off we’ve had we’ve travelled. The boys haven’t had any proper days off, so it’s great to have the boys refreshed.”
The Lions will not actually train until Wednesday in Queenstown, four days on from the thrilling second Test victory over New Zealand that levelled the series at 1-1, before heading back to Auckland to finalise their preparations for the clash at Eden Park.
The time off has allowed the fans to mix with the players, with thousands taking the chance in the final week of the tour to follow the squad to Queenstown and sample plenty of the extreme sports that the region is famous for.
Owen Farrell was one of those who posed for pictures with fans on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, with the ‘Sea of Red’ getting a chance to get up close to many of the players that featured in last Saturday’s victory and who are also likely to start the third Test this weekend.
The mix of players from four different countries also looks to have helped with the good squad morale the Lions have already spoken of on this tour, with the groups that have headed out of the team hotel displaying a good mix of the different nationalities that make up the squad. That good-feel factor has of course been boosted by the Lions’ first win over the All Blacks in 24 years, although the chance to go out on Monday night and enjoy a beer or two will also have helped with the relaxation period.
However, it will be business as usual once again on Wednesday as the players will be put through a full training session, the last of which before head coach Warren Gatland names his squad for the third Test in what will be the final chance for players to impress enough to force their way into the squad.
The All Blacks on the other hand were put through their paces on Tuesday as Steve Hansen led his squad through their first full session since suffering the 24-21 defeat, in which they had Sonny Bill Williams sent off and subsequently banned for four weeks for a shoulder charge to the head of Anthony Watson.
Hansen is yet to confirm who will replace Williams in the side, despite calling Malakai Fekitoa up to the squad as cover, but he did confirm that Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty is unlikely to play against the Lions after losing his race to recover from a hamstring injury suffered in the first Test victory. Crotty began running again on Tuesday, but Hansen does not believe that the centre is ready to make his return in the series decider.