British & Irish Lions plan to beat the heat

 The British and Irish Lions game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on Saturday will include two water breaks per half due to the prevailing heat and humidity.

The opening encounter of the 2013 tour to Australia will be played in forecast temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91 F) with humidity levels reaching 90 percent despite starting at 7.30 pm local time.

There will breaks at the 15 and 30-minute mark of both halves for rehydration and application of icepacks.

Soon after arriving in Hong Kong earlier in the week, attack coach Rob Howley had brushed aside calls for water breaks in each half, saying “we want to be put under stress and see how we cope with it.”

But after a first training session in which players lost up to four kilograms, a more pragmatic approach was adopted. Welsh prop Adam Jones said the heat in that first session made him feel ill and was “a shock to the system.”

Months of anticipation will end when Irish lock Paul O’Connell leads the Lions out in the tour opener. He will be at the helm of a starting lineup which includes nine Welshmen, but missing tour captain Sam Warburton who has been rested due to a slight knee ligament problem picked up in training.

Head coach Warren Gatland had stated that moving the ball around will be a key feature as to how the Lions will approach their nine-game tour Down Under including three tests.

The Lions have not won a series since 1997 and the coach was eager to use the Barbarians game to send a message of intent to Australia.

“We want to be positive about the way we play. We want to go and show the Australian public we are capable of moving the ball and scoring lots of points,” Gatland said.

It is only the second time that the Lions and Barbarians have clashed. The previous encounter in 1977 saw the Lions win 23-14.

The Barbarians will be led by Italian powerhouse No.8 Sergio Parisse and will possess a lethal backline including former All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko and flyhalf Nick Evans who will team up with french scrumhalf Dimitry Yachvili.

While Gatland was eager to play expansive rugby, Farrell said the team had considable tactical flexibility.

“This side can play different styles, we can play a wide and expansive game, or play big with powerful contact, or can keep it tight. Whichever way we go, the key will be to adapt to the situation in front of you,” said Farrell.

“And we will got our first opportunity to test our systems against the Barbarians, and the tougher it is out there, the better. This first game is going to be important.”

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