British and Irish Lions 2013: Owen Farrell admits his mistake and warns team-mates to control their frustration

Fly-half says retaliation Down Under could prove costly as aggressor Brits is banned

Hong Kong

It is still not completely clear what was going through Schalk Brits' mind when he tried to scramble Owen Farrell with a mistimed punch that turned into a forearm smash, but the rugby authorities were decisive enough in their thinking yesterday.

The South African hooker received a three-week ban for assaulting his young Saracens club-mate during the Lions' 59-8 victory over the Barbarians, and is at risk of missing the start of the Premiership campaign.

Steve Lewis, the judicial officer who heard the case here yesterday, may yet decide that Brits should miss Saracens' pre-season programme rather than any league matches, but the fact remains that he took a dim view of the incident that set British and Irish Lions minds whirring on Saturday. Warren Gatland, the head coach of the tour party, has seen enough hard rugby down the years to understand the reality of what faces his players over the next few weeks in Australia and does not think for a second that this will be the last haymaker thrown by an opponent.

While the coach was stressing the importance of self-restraint in the face of intimidation, Farrell was playing down the controversy as best he could. "Things happen," said the Lions outside-half. "I was trying to pull Schalk into a ruck and he reacted to that. There were no dramas and nothing came of it in the end. I try not to take a backward step when someone reacts in that way, but you can't really afford to retaliate because these are big games we're talking about and losing someone to the sin-bin would be massive. Everyone has to be disciplined."

Farrell is not renowned as a turner of the other cheek and his fire-and-ice style of rugby, in which he balances a molten temper against the coolest of approaches to goalkicking, is not guaranteed to keep him out of trouble as this highly-charged tour unfolds. But a Test series in Wallaby country is no place for a horizontal pacifist, and by refusing to be bullied by Brits and squaring up to him in the way he did, he made it clear that he intends to stand his ground.

He admitted that he found the humid conditions more than a little awkward – not least when, in attempting a long cross-field pass, he saw the ball slip from his hands and travel approximately one per cent of the intended distance. "I've never done that before and it can't have looked the best," he confessed. "But we might as well have been playing in torrential rain, it was that wet out there. Playing in Australian conditions won't seem too bad after this.

"Representing the Lions didn't really hit home until we were running out and I saw so many people in the stands wearing the shirt. It felt special to be wearing that shirt in front of them. You're given a number in your first game: I'm the 780th Lion. You can't take in too much of this kind of thing before a game because there is so much you need to be focusing on, but I took that in. It's such a privilege."

 

Get Adobe Flash player


It remains to be seen what number the captain Sam Warburton will be given: it rather depends on when he completes his recovery from a knee ligament problem and finally makes the Lions debut denied him at the weekend. The back-room staff believe he is getting there – "We're ultra-cautious with these things, but he's progressing well and probably could have played against the Barbarians," said James Robson, the doctor – and that he will feature in one or other of this week's provincial games in Perth and Brisbane.

Three other injured players were close to being declared fit yesterday. Rob Kearney, the Irish full-back, was not considered for the Baa-Baas fixture because of hamstring trouble, but participated in light training before departing Hong Kong. The same went for another Irishman, the flanker Sean O'Brien, and the Welsh prop Gethin Jenkins. They had been struggling with knee and calf issues respectively.

Few of those involved on Saturday will face Western Force in two days' time. "Those were tough conditions: even though these players are outstandingly good at rehydrating themselves during a match, there was an average weight loss of around two kilograms," Robson said. "The forwards always suffer the most because they do more work. The way I try to help them is to give them an extra half-hour's lie-in by getting the backs out of bed first."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin