Players from the Jersey Reds could potentially face the British and Irish Lions during the team’s training sessions on the island, the Lions’ coach has said.
Speaking to Express, Warren Gatland said that if medical advice allowed it, the team would be open to some training sessions involving members of Jersey’s own rugby team.
“I’ve spoken to [Jersey Reds Director of Rugby] Harvey Biljon a couple of times, and he said, ‘Look, if you wanted to have them as some opposition, then that’s a possibility,’” Gatland explained.
However, he said if this was permitted by the medical experts, that the team were “more than comfortable with them coming along and maybe adding one or two numbers, coming to watch trainings and seeing what we can give back to them.”
He added: “One of the things about the Lions has always been, ‘How do you uphold the traditions?’ and the tradition has been about the community and giving things to people, recognising the past… and we hopefully will have the opportunity to do those sort of things.
“So whether that’s a bit of a run against them… maybe some players coming along and having some experience, or coaches coming to watch and interacting – those are things that we haven’t gone into the finer detail of at the moment, and I’ll be looking to do that over the next few weeks.”
Pictured: Gatland said settling on Jersey for the training camp was an "easy" decision.
Gatland and the British and Irish Lions’ coaching and management squad are currently on the island visiting for a 'second-last-selection meeting', as well taking the opportunity to plan and schedule for the team’s visit and the further tour.
The team are due to train in the island for at least 10 days in June before flying out directly to Edinburgh on 26 June for a friendly match against Japan, and then to South Africa on 27 June.
Gatland described choosing Jersey for a training camp as a “pretty easy” decision, saying that the facilities were a “big tick” in the selection process, as well as the support from Jersey’s medical professionals, who he said had been “incredibly supportive.”
The team will be using the newly built Strive facility in St. Peter, which is due to open next month.
Gatland said Strive's ‘altitude chamber’, which adjusts atmosphere to replicate different altitudes, would be one of the key ways in which the team would train to adapt themselves to the conditions of South Africa.
Pictured: The team will be using the newly built St. Peter training facility, Strive, which opens its doors next month.
“Really it’s about getting the intensity in those first couple of weeks of training as to the altitude,” he explained.
“We just need to look at what sort of numbers from a safety perspective that we can get into the altitude chamber in the Strive Facility – we have our own oxygen masks and equipment that the boys will be using early in the morning.”
While Gatland said the team will be spending most of their time "working their butts off and training hard", he assured that they would also spend time "getting away from it and enjoying the experiences here" - with a chance for islanders to see the team during their stay on the island, after a strict first week.
While the recreational itinerary is still being developed, with the focus currently on training, Gatland suggested surfing, boat trips, surfing, visits to castles or simply going to local cafés and mixing with some of the public as some of these potential activities the team could do on their downtime, which an 'entertainment committee' will decide on.
When asked about Jersey’s potential as a sporting hub in the future, Gatland added that if this trip was successful, there was the possibility of other teams equally being attracted by the island’s sporting facilities.
Pictured: Seeing the sights of Jersey, such as its historic castles, could be on the team's recreational agenda, Gatland said.
“There’s a possibility for a number of sports that perhaps could look at this as a potential destination for the future and doing something a bit different and getting out of the UK or whatever country they’re coming from, and giving the athletes involved a different experience they may not have had in the past.”
Pictured top: Jersey Reds boss Harvey Biljon and Lions coach Warren Gatland. (Gatland photo courtesy courtesy of Inpho/Dan Sheridan)
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