Paul Rees

Author's details

Name: Paul Rees
Date registered: October 11, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/south-africa-rugby-team

Latest posts

  1. Does the weakness of South Africa and Australia threaten future of the Lions? | The Breakdown — June 21, 2017
  2. Maro Itoje hot off the press and a must for British & Irish Lions Test | Paul Rees — June 18, 2017
  3. Warren Gatland dreams of having last laugh but Lions must stay tight | Paul Rees — June 18, 2017
  4. Lions lifted by positive impact of Conor Murray and Owen Farrell | Paul Rees — June 12, 2017
  5. Lions’ confounding win gives New Zealand reasons to be fearful | Paul Rees — June 11, 2017

Author's posts listings

Jun 21

Does the weakness of South Africa and Australia threaten future of the Lions? | The Breakdown

There is no longer a gap between the hemispheres but one between New Zealand and the rest – a shift that raises issue of the sustainability for the Lions

After the skirmishing comes the hand-to-hand combat. In an era when the expected is often thwarted, it is risky to consider the series between New Zealand and the Lions a foregone conclusion.

The All Blacks are the favourites because of their form this decade and the struggles the Lions have had there in the past, just two Test victories since winning the series in 1971.

Related: Lions strangled us and will test the All Blacks, says Chiefs coach

Related: New Zealand’s captain Kieran Read likely to be fit for first Test with Lions

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/21/weakness-south-africa-australia-threaten-future-lions-the-breakdown

Jun 18

Maro Itoje hot off the press and a must for British & Irish Lions Test | Paul Rees

Itoje has proved a vital element in the Lions’ ‘pressing game’ and is key to trying to frustrate Beauden Barrett, so should start in the first Test against All Blacks

The British & Irish Lions sealed victory against the Maori All Blacks with a try that was spawned by their relentless defence which resembles the pressing game favoured by many of the top football clubs.

Damian McKenzie – the Maori fly-half who is one of the most threatening runners in Super Rugby, where he operates mostly as a full‑back – received the ball in his 22 and was quickly closed down by the second-rows George Kruis and Maro Itoje 12 minutes into the second half, even though he was standing deep.

Related: Lions and Maro Itoje too strong for Maori All Blacks on niggly night

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/18/maro-itoje-british-irish-lions-first-test-all-blacks-beauden-barrett-rugby-union

Jun 18

Warren Gatland dreams of having last laugh but Lions must stay tight | Paul Rees

The Lions coach has come in for criticism in his homeland yet knows his side must resist the All Blacks’ attempts to provoke an open game in the first Test

History, ancient and modern, points to the Lions being outroared by New Zealand. The All Blacks warmed up for the series by amassing 78 points and 12 tries against Samoa. When asked what the Lions would need in Saturday’s first Test, the Samoa captain, Kahn Fotuali’i, replied: “Luck.”

As well as tries, luck has largely eluded them so far. The loss of the No8 Billy Vunipola before the tour was compounded by the thigh injury suffered by Owen Farrell in training, a Lion the All Blacks would find space for. It would be no surprise if Warren Gatland gave Farrell until the day of the game to prove his fitness, even if his chances of playing were minimal, to make New Zealand prepare for two different teams.

Related: Lions team to play Chiefs suggests Sam Warburton in frame to face All Blacks

Related: Warren Gatland defends Lions call-ups and says Hansen ‘is a little bit worried’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/18/warren-gatland-lions-all-blacks-first-test

Jun 12

Lions lifted by positive impact of Conor Murray and Owen Farrell | Paul Rees

The partnership, featuring Murray’s tactical kicking and Farrell’s distribution, led to the British & Irish Lions’ best performance of the tour against the Crusaders

The British & Irish Lions may have been rocked by criticism in New Zealand of their playing style, but their victory against the Crusaders showed they are not going to be swayed by it.

They pitched up in Christchurch with six players from the 2013 tour to Australia who were making their first starts in New Zealand: if it was not quite the A-team, they brought their A-game, led around the field by authoritative, pragmatic half-backs.

Related: Sam Warburton to return from injury and lead Lions against Highlanders

Related: Lions’ confounding win gives New Zealand reasons to be fearful | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/12/lions-lifted-positive-impact-conor-murray-owen-farrell

Jun 11

Lions’ confounding win gives New Zealand reasons to be fearful | Paul Rees

The Owen Farrell-inspired victory for the British and Irish Lions against unbeaten Crusaders, after being tipped to not win another game on tour, will keep New Zealand’s analysts awake for nights to come

As the past few weeks on the election trail have shown, a campaign rarely runs in a straight line. What seems certain one day can look unlikely the next and a few days after being tipped to go through the rest of the tour without securing a victory the Lions not only defeated the previously unbeaten Crusaders but gave New Zealand some reasons to be fearful.

One disappointment for the Lions, which will kick in after the euphoria and relief of a win they needed with the majority of the side likely to start the first Test, was that they did not adorn it with tries. They created chances but a mixture of poor decision-making, a lack of understanding and slack passing under pressure cost them from the opening minute.

Related: Lions’ stoic defence sets up morale-boosting win over formidable Crusaders

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/11/british-and-irish-lions-new-zealand

May 30

Jeremy Thrush: opening Lions Test the only chance of win against All Blacks

• Former All Blacks lock says hosts could be ‘a bit cold at the start’
• Lions need to play to their traditional strengths, adds Thrush

Gloucester’s former New Zealand lock Jeremy Thrush believes the only way the Lions will win the series against the All Blacks is by playing traditional northern hemisphere rugby, dominating the set-pieces and driving mauls.

The 32-year old Thrush, who won 11 caps between 2013 and 2015, is expecting New Zealand to win the series 3-0, as they did in 2005, unless the Lions manage to exploit any rustiness in the World Cup holders in the opening Test.

Related: Dan Biggar eager to prove worth for Lions on and off field in New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/30/jeremy-thrush-new-zealand-british-irish-lions

May 29

Remembering the Lions tour of 1971: the great awakening of British rugby | Paul Rees

The British and Irish amalgam were a mess until 1971 but then the philosopher coach, Carwyn James, led them to an improbable series win over New Zealand

It was the year, said the New Zealand captain, Colin Meads, when the Lions stopped believing in fairytales. He was speaking after the drawn final fourth Test at the end of a series his side had lost 2-1 and his words resonated with his opposite number, Willie John McBride, who had had to be persuaded to put his name up for selection after three trips, nine Tests and no victories. “On previous tours we hoped we would win,” said the Irishman. “This time we believed.”

Related: Warren Gatland fears Lions will lose up to 10 players to injury

Related: Cryotherapy chambers and trying to forget Billy: welcome to Lions training | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/29/remembering-heroes-lions-tour-1971

May 25

Wasps and Exeter ensure attacking rugby and ambition return to Premiership

The final at Twickenham between the two top try-scoring teams in the league this season should show how game has moved away from risk-averse tactics

The Premiership play-off semi-finals were a fitting summary of a league season high on ambition. The finishes at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena, two replacements scoring tries to win the match in the closing minutes, were dramatic but even the dullest matches can come alive at the end when someone is chasing a game.

What went before in Exeter and Coventry was as notable as the punchline. It was not that long ago when many Premiership sides were risk averse, kicking in their own half and rarely offloading, but with more clubs now training like Eddie Jones’s England, high on pace and intensity with an emphasis on handling and continuity, matches are being won rather than not lost.

Related: London Irish return to Premiership after thrilling win over Yorkshire Carnegie

Related: England players could face New Zealand in autumn Barbarians game

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/25/wasps-exeter-ensure-attacking-rugby-ambition-return-premiership-final-twickenham

May 22

Rugby players fear serious physical and mental strains of extending season

• Premiership rugby wants to lengthen season by a month
• Rugby Players’ Association warns of detrimental effect on welfare

Premiership players have condemned plans to extend the domestic season to 10 months from 2019-20, saying the move would have serious implications and unnecessarily add to their physical and mental strain.

Premiership Rugby drew up its plan last March after World Rugby announced changes to the global calendar that would mean the domestic season in Europe starts a month later in October and goes on until the end of June rather than May.

Related: Rugby union: Premiership, Champions Cup, Pro12 and Top 14 talking points

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/22/players-fear-physical-mental-strain-rugby-union-season

May 20

Anthony Watson: ‘The All Blacks are good but we will try to dominate them’

The 23-year-old wing talks about Lions choir practice, rooming with Stuart Hogg, the good and bad of touring New Zealand and his fear of being fined

Being selected by the Lions for the first time is a step into the unknown for players in the professional era who socialise with opponents after matches considerably less than their amateur predecessors. When the Bath and England wing Anthony Watson arrived at the Lions training camp in the Vale of Glamorgan last weekend there were, aside from his club and international colleagues, faces he knew but not their owners.

By the end of the week that had changed. The bonding process started on the first night when the 14 players in attendance were asked to come up with four songs, one for each of the home unions, that would be rehearsed before the squad left for New Zealand on 29 May and sung during their time there when they arrive in towns and cities and are greeted by locals. “Bonding is a huge part of being a Lion,” says Watson.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

Related: If the Lions and All Blacks want to know what to expect … remember 1971 | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/20/anthony-watson-lions-all-blacks-dominate-new-zealand

May 07

Rugby World Cup 2019 draw: Argentina promise to light up Japan’s leap into dark

The draw for the 2019 tournament takes place on Wednesday but the prospect of a group of death holds no fears for the Pumas, the world’s ninth-ranked side

Kyoto, where the draw for the 2019 World Cup takes place on Wednesday, is known as Japan’s thousand-year capital. It is unlikely to take that long for a northern hemisphere nation to win the tournament again after England’s success 14 years ago, and for once their southern hemisphere rivals are not hogging the places at the top of the world rankings.

Holding the draw more than two years before the start of the tournament is intended to give the host nation the maximum time to sell tickets. England had even longer for the 2015 World Cup, with the pools all lined up at the end of 2012. When the hosts were grouped with Australia and Wales to ensure that either the 2007 finalists or one of the 2011 semi-finalists would not make the knockout stage, the protest was loud enough for the draw to be put back six months this time. It gave the Six Nations countries a chance to improve their positions in the rankings, although at one point Wales, after defeats by England and France, were on course to slip out of the top eight again; victory over Ireland saved them.

Related: Holding 2023 Rugby World Cup in Ireland would capture hearts and minds | Robert Kitson

Related: Autumn internationals: All Blacks still top but southern powers feel Test fatigue | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/07/rugby-world-cup-2019-draw-argentina-japan

Apr 22

Warren Gatland’s Lions stock up for brutal schedule in New Zealand

The tourists have a mountain to climb but they have supplemented their squad and, despite claims their programme is ‘suicidal’, they relish the task ahead

Touring New Zealand is rugby union’s equivalent of climbing Everest. As the Lions start to prepare for their latest assault, having barely got beyond base camp on their last visit 12 years ago, the scale of the ascent can be measured in two statistics: one series won out of 11 and six victories in 38 Tests.

On the 2005 tour, which was planned with military precision, the Lions faced provincial teams in the buildup to the Test series, but this summer they face all five of New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises, along with the Maori All Blacks, in an itinerary the former New Zealand head coach Graham Henry, who spearheaded the Lions’ trip to Australia in 2001 and four years later was in charge of the All Blacks, has described as suicidal.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/22/warren-gatland-lions-new-zealand

Apr 20

Gatland’s Lions will follow Ireland and look to feed off All Black mistakes

Eddie Jones’s glorious England revolution has come too late for this tour. Like Ireland and Wales, the Lions will seek territory and set-piece mastery

John Kingston was in a state of shock when he was invited to stand in front of a camera last Friday night minutes after Harlequins had lost to Exeter at The Stoop. The club’s director of rugby wore the air of a man who, in the words of PG Wodehouse, had searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.

The match had been the most effervescent in the Premiership this season, fizzing with movement, daring, skill and the outrageous. Quins were at their most swashbuckling, one movement containing offloads from their props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler bore a New Zealand trademark, and in going on 192 runs in the match covered more than 500 metres with ball in hand and made 230 passes.

Related: Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

Related: Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/20/gatland-lions-ireland-all-blacks-mistakes-england-wales-breakdown

Apr 15

Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time

Bristol probably need to beat Wasps to have a chance of staying up but their outgoing head coach insists relegation would not ruin the club’s grand plans

Easter Sunday is associated with resurrection and Bristol are in need of divine intervention if they are to dodge an immediate return to the Championship. Having been within three minutes of beating last season’s beaten finalists, Exeter, a week ago, they on Sunday face the Premiership leaders, Wasps, at Ashton Gate with matches running out.

After Bristol were relegated in 2009, they spent seven years in the rugby wilderness. The money went, then the players, and when they assembled a competitive squad they were tripped up by the Championship’s play-off system. Should they go down again, however, their return is likely to be far quicker, with the club financially stable and underpinned by a strong infrastructure.

Related: Worcester take giant leap towards safety by hitting Bristol for six

Related: ‘Big Cats’, brand reviews and the rampant commercialism of the Lions | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/15/mark-tainton-pat-lam-bristol-big-time-wasps

Apr 12

‘Wales has been awesome and I want to leave Ospreys on a high’ | Paul Rees

English flanker aims for one final fling as he prepares to leave the principality for Bath and sets his sights on a place in Eddie Jones’ squad for Argentina

A year ago, Eddie Jones said he expected to be naming Sam Underhill in the England squad within six months. Politics ruled that out with the flanker playing outside the country for Ospreys and available for selection only in exceptional circumstances, but on Saturday the national side’s defence coach, Paul Gustard, a wing forward in his playing days, will be at the Principality Stadium to watch him play against Cardiff Blues on Judgement Day in the Welsh capital.

Underhill, 20, a student at Cardiff University, is being watched as Jones and his coaches finalise their squad for the June tour to Argentina. An exceptional circumstance could have been argued for the openside before he announced in January that he would be joining Bath in the summer given England’s lack of a specialist No7 for a number of years, but Underhill was injured at the start of the season and when announcing his Six Nations squad Jones said the forward had not done enough to merit selection and would be considered for the summer.

Related: Jack Clifford ruled out of England tour of Argentina with shoulder injury

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/12/sam-underhill-ospreys-england-bath

Apr 11

Sam Warburton faces fitness race for Lions after suffering knee injury

• Wales and Cardiff Blues flanker out of action for approximately six weeks
• Blues head coach confident 2013 Lions captain will be fit for New Zealand tour

Sam Warburton, who is the bookmakers’ favourite to captain the British & Irish Lions on the summer tour to New Zealand, is unlikely to play again this season after sustaining knee-ligament damage but he is expected to be fit for the three-Test trip.

Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, will name his squad on 19 April and the captain is likely to have already been told given that Warburton received a fortnight’s notice before the announcement in 2013 that the Wales flanker would lead the squad in Australia.

Related: Rugby union talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/11/sam-warburton-lions-doubt-knee-injury-six-weeks-rugby-union

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