Having been met by a hero’s welcome from Island rugby fans and junior players at the Radisson Blu on Sunday afternoon, head coach Gatland and his British and Irish Lions got down to business in St Peter with early preparations for their 2021 tour of South Africa.
Led by Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones – named Lions’ tour captain by Gatland – the squad opened up their rigorous training regime with a taste of what the elite performance gym at Strive Academy has to offer, before stepping out onto the turf at Jersey RFC for their first rugby session as a unit.
And for winger Josh Adams – top try-scorer at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with seven touchdowns, including one against South Africa in the semi-finals – it was a day to remember.
‘It’s been brilliant so far, I’ve absolutely loved it,’ he said.
‘We’ve just had our first day of training together and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It really helps having nice weather as well ... there have been smiles on our faces and the first couple of hours here in Jersey have been class. I can’t wait to get back out on the training field tomorrow, I’m enjoying myself so much.’
Strict Covid measures are dictating the players’ every movement during their 11-day stay, although there will still be opportunities for the squad to get out and enjoy the Island.
‘We’ve been having briefings and chats about the restrictions without our bubble,’ Adams added. ‘We have to be diligent with what we do but we can only control things within our bubble.
‘We’ve had the Euros [football] on in the team room at the hotel and I’m sure the entertainment committee [an assigned group of players within the squad] will have a few other interesting things lined up for us here in Jersey. I’m looking forward to seeing what they are.’
Half of the squad were set to receive their second Covid vaccination today before a rest-day tomorrow.
Islanders who successfully applied for one of 2,400 free tickets for two open training sessions will be able to see the players in action on Friday or next Tuesday, at Stade Santander in St Peter. And, for good reason, Adams says the focus will be sharp.
‘South Africa are currently the world champions and are a fantastic team,’ he said. ‘Whether they haven’t played in 12 months or not I’m sure they’ll be up for it and ready for the tests when they come about. It will be a massive challenge against them in their back garden.
‘We’re representing the Lions and whether it’s during a pandemic or not the end-goal is the same. We’ll be there to win the test series, whether it’s in front of a full crowd or an empty stadium.’