Angry Howley insists Lions can adapt to 'chaos' on field

The British and Irish Lions' Ben Te'o looking for a gap in defence during their 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. The visitors need to show on the field they can adjust to an unstructured style.
The British and Irish Lions' Ben Te'o looking for a gap in defence during their 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. The visitors need to show on the field they can adjust to an unstructured style.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AUCKLAND • British and Irish Lions attack coach Rob Howley slapped down talk of "Warrenball" tactics yesterday as he admitted the tourists were a "work in progress".

Howley said he had no idea what was meant by "Warrenball", the term used to describe head coach Warren Gatland's preference for powerful, direct running.

This week, Gatland - who has led Wales to three Six Nations titles, and the Lions to victory over Australia in 2013 - has bristled at suggestions that he only had one coaching style.

"I don't know what 'Warrenball' means," Howley said, ahead of today's second Tour match against Super Rugby side Auckland Blues which welcomes back centre Sonny Bill Williams from injury.

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"We want to bring a southern hemisphere-style rugby chaos to our game. The players are enjoying the speed and intensity in training.

"Our game plan is in its infancy at the moment, but hopefully you'll see us improve on that when we play the Blues."

The Lions, bidding for only their second Test series win over the All Blacks, started their Tour with a 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.

Gatland fired back - "What do you mean by one type of game?" - when asked this week if he had only one coaching style - the physical, direct approach favoured by Wales.

England coach Eddie Jones is one high-profile critic of such route-one tactics, commenting before the Tour: "I think you struggle to beat the All Blacks like that."

Howley said the Lions' game plan is still evolving, but he insisted he wants his team to play off-the-cuff when needed.

"The one thing we need to do is have a framework whereby the players play what's in front of them," he said. "We have to adapt and play what we see. The one thing the players have really enjoyed is rugby chaos, it's very unstructured."

"We are all aware of the pace of the game in the southern hemisphere."

The Lions threw away at least three try-scoring chances in their opening match and Howley knows they must improve if they are to beat the Blues.

Gatland has named an all-new side for the second Tour match, captained by Wales hooker Ken Owens.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'Angry Howley insists Lions can adapt to 'chaos' on field'. Print Edition | Subscribe