British and Irish Lions 2013: Graham Rowntree warns that real hard men don't bite back

Coach doesn't want to lose players for tour due to indiscipline against Western Force

Perth

The British and Irish Lions will be given their first taste of Australian hospitality in the far western reaches of this vast country today, and if the taste is not to their liking, they will be expected to close their eyes and swallow before getting on with the job in hand. "That's what the best players do," said Graham Rowntree, the forwards coach, on the eve of the meeting with Western Force. "The hard man is the man who doesn't retaliate."

Rowntree knows all there is to know about the physical perils of touring in the southern hemisphere, where a touch of Pom-bashing is considered de rigueur by the locals. Fifteen years ago in New Zealand, the former England prop went up close and personal with the studs of the All Black lock Ian Jones, one of which pierced his headguard.

"I played in a different era," he said. "All the old stuff about the Lions and their '99 call' in South Africa – that's long gone. What the players think and talk about nowadays is doing the job well, then getting up and doing the next one. Provocation will always be there, but you can't afford to be drawn into things. If we're doing that, we're not performing our tasks elsewhere on the pitch. We can't be standing there getting into fights.

"We're here to play positive rugby, to play our own game – to be competitive and physical within the laws. We'll be very strong with anyone who allows himself to be drawn into any silliness, because you can be banned and miss matches, even miss the rest of the tour, if you get involved."

This clear statement of principle amplified the comments of the head coach Warren Gatland, who, after last weekend's opening tour match with the Barbarians in Hong Kong, said his players should be prepared to "take one for the team" rather than react aggressively to violence or intimidation from opponents. He had just watched his outside-half Owen Farrell respond to a punch from the Baa-Baas hooker Schalk Brits by pushing the aggressor to the floor, and while he did not seek to condemn the young midfielder – "It's pretty hard not to react when somebody lands one on your chin," he remarked – he felt driven to give his squad a public reminder of the need for iron discipline.

Not all the Western Force players see it the same way, apparently. Brett Sheehan, the experienced scrum-half, was quoted earlier in the week as saying he and his colleagues would play an "extremely physical game" against the Lions, adding that there might be ways to "get under their skins". By way of reinforcing the point, the international flanker Matt Hodgson said the Force would be looking to "hurt some bodies", on the grounds that any provincial defeat would be a serious blow to the tourists' confidence ahead of the Test series with the Wallabies.

If Michael Foley, the Western Force head coach, was nowhere near as inflammatory in his pre-match comments, the former Wallaby hooker – as fierce a competitor as the Australian front row has produced in recent memory – did not indicate that his players were about to embrace the philosophy of pacifism. "Our guys play for each other," he said. "That's widely recognised throughout Australia. If you look at how we fight in defence, at what a strong mentality we have…every member of the team sees it as a privilege to be playing in this game, and they'll go hard."

Today's match, together with the fixture against the powerful Queensland Reds in Brisbane at the weekend, should set the tone for the tour. The pace will be immeasurably quicker than anything seen in Hong Kong, while the levels of physicality should rise by a similar degree. According to Rowntree, the coaching team will start thinking about "units and combinations" for the Test series once the Lions leave Brisbane, hopefully intact, on Sunday.

"We're looking forward to this game against the Force," he said. "Although they're not at full strength, there's enough in their line-up to demand respect. The important thing for our players is to take their opportunities as they're presented with them. I think this is an exceptional group of players, and when competition for places is so great, you can quickly find yourself at the back of the queue."

Two of the injured Lions, the three-tour prop Gethin Jenkins and the captain Sam Warburton, are finally on the mend and should be fit in time for the meeting with the Reds. Jenkins trained fully after recovering from a calf problem while Warburton, ruled out of the opening matches by a damaged knee ligament, is expected to do so within the next 24 hours.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss