Lockdown Lions vow to raise a smile at start of six weeks behind closed doors

British and Irish Lions players train for first time on arrival in South Africa (Image: Gallo Images via Getty Images)

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Jamie George and his team mates have vowed to grin and bear life as lockdown Lions in South Africa.

The tourists have begun six weeks in a bio-bubble as Covid infection rates in the country continue to spiral and stricter measures are desperately applied.

Doubts remain over whether the eight-match tour will be completed and indeed whether it should even be attempted.

But while organisers consider the bigger picture, George has promised the players will hold up their end of the deal.

The Saracens star said: “We obviously have a good understanding of what is going on, the level of lockdown that Jo’burg in particular has gone into.

“Lockdown in England, we had an opportunity to put smiles on people’s faces and there is certainly the same thing here. A lot of people are going through a really difficult time.

“Being in a country where they love their rugby as much as they do, it’s important for us to be here and behave in the right way.”

Jamie George: "It’s important for us to be here and behave in the right way”
(Image: Action Images via Reuters)

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Amid talk of shifting the entire tour to Cape Town away from the High Veldt, where coronavirus is spreading like wildfire, the Lions are focused on Saturday’s opener at Ellis Park.

“Nobody is under any illusions as to how serious it is,” said coach Robin McBryde, as new rules came into force banning all gatherings, as well as alcohol, and imposing a 9pm curfew.

“We’ve all got a duty and a role to play to make sure we do everything by the book and not allow things to get stressed out and get on top of us.

Long stretch: Lions players braced for most testing tour of all
(Image: Gallo Images via Getty Images)

“We’ve got to pay due diligence. We’re very fortunate that we’re here and going ahead with it.

“We’ve all got to just get on with it. The seriousness of the situation, it doesn’t allow you to explore any other avenues.”

As if there is not enough to be downbeat about, Warren Gatland’s squad had to quickly get over the shock of losing captain Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Justin Tipuric to injury.

But they have been lifted by the enthusiastic response of locals to their team bus going to and from training.

Conor Murray has replaced Alun Wyn Jones as captain
(Image: PA)

New skipper Conor Murray said: “When the bus is stopping at traffic lights, we've had people beeping, waving and smiling at us. There’s a good buzz around us being here.

“We're obviously very aware of the situation outside the hotel. We literally go from there to the training ground, so we're very much restricted in our movements.

“It's a live document, things can change quickly. But we're here and very focused on putting on a show for people to get behind and support us.”

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