Sunday 26 January 2020

Rob Howley dismisses 'Warrenball' label and promises rugby chaos from the Lions

Rob Howley believes the British and Irish Lions will champion "rugby chaos" in New Zealand, dismissing out of hand the dated tags of "Warrenball" aimed at the tourists.

Attack coach Howley insisted he does not "know what Warrenball means" in response to boss Warren Gatland's frustrations at outside voices continuing to suggest his gameplan is limited.

Gatland had this week hinted that ex-England coach Brian Smith could have invented the "Warrenball" term out of jealousy, when countering All Blacks boss Steve Hansen's claims that New Zealand know exactly what to expect from the Lions.

Former Wales scrum-half Howley revealed the Lions have been holding free-for-all training sessions, essentially challenging the players to improvise their attacking threat.

"I don't know what Warrenball means, I haven't got a clue," said Howley.

"That's all I can say having been part of the Lions for what is now my third tour. I'm not too sure what Warrenball means.

"We're still working on our foundations, on some principles of the way we want to play.

"Having a framework where the players have the ability to play what's in front of them. Rugby is a game about speed of thought.

"The players have really enjoyed the sessions we've been holding that we call rugby chaos, 15 against 15.

"It's unstructured; we're aware of the pace of the game in the southern hemisphere and it's important we get up to speed as quickly as possible.

"It's continual learning, the frameworks clearly aren't in place yet, from the performance at the weekend, but we want to improve and we know we need to improve."

The Lions face the Blues at Eden Park on Wednesday night, with Sonny Bill Williams passed fit to feature after knee issues.

Gatland's Lions laboured to an opening-match 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on Saturday, and must now hit top speed without further delay.

The three-Test series against the back-to-back world champion All Blacks starts on June 24, leaving Gatland and company precious little time to find their feet.

Howley revealed the full Lions squad had endured but also enjoyed some full-tilt contact training sessions, as the battle for Test jerseys rises through the gears.

"We were doing an offloading and contact drill, and it got pretty explosive," said Howley.

"The contact got pretty heated, and while we're mindful of injuries we're also intent on putting players under pressure.

"We want to be clinical, relentless in our processes, and ruthless.

"We'll be playing the most ruthless side in world rugby in a few weeks.

"The players bring the identity to that jersey, and for the coaches, working with these players, it's for us to bring out the best in these players.

"The most difficult message is trying to take that information overload away from them.

"They are the best of the best and we want to let them have the talent.

"We've got a hugely talented squad, we don't want to give them information - we want them to go out and play.

"That's been the messages over the last three weeks.

"There's a bit of structure there but ultimately it's about playing with talent, playing smart and fast rugby.

"The challenge is for the players to play what they see, and that's the message we keep offering."

PA Media

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