Look of Lions gives Bay early warning

By David Leggat

A glance at the Lions side to face his Bay of Plenty team told assistant coach Kevin Schuler plenty last night.

The former All Black flanker liked the look of the pack, where coach Sir Clive Woodward has made sure he has a core of old heads.

"They’re definitely strong in the loosies, the forward pack looks pretty imposing," Schuler said.

"It looks like they’re going to take the game to us pretty hard."

The Lions team suggests a mark of respect for the Bay and Schuler confirmed his players were preparing for "a once in a lifetime chance".

"We’re grateful to have got this game and we want to go out and enjoy the occasion."

The only injury worry in the enlarged squad of 30 concerns beefy Blues tighthead prop Taufa’ao Filise, who strained his left knee in last week’s 41-15 warmup win for a Bay XV over Poverty Bay.

"It is improving every day and we’ll leave it as late as possible," Schuler said.

One of the more eye-catching aspects of that game was a three-try return for speedy Fijian wing Filimone Bolavucu, which won’t have hurt his chances of earning a spot somewhere in the mix for Saturday night.

The squad assembled yesterday for a run on the beach at Mt Maunganui.

Serious preparations start today and when coach Vern Cotter, back from his successful stint as Crusaders assistant coach, names his 22 on Wednesday, it is likely to have an experienced, Chiefs-oriented look to it.

Captained by rugged Wayne Ormond, the Bay team could include up to nine Chiefs players from this year’s Super 12, including halfback Kevin Senio, lock Bernie Upton, props Ben Castle and Simms Davison and hooker Aleki Lutui.

Schuler said getting the team which reached the semifinals of the NPC first division last season to gel wouldn’t be a problem.

Most had played together for two or three seasons and he expected the chance to take on the rarest of frontline rugby visitors would provide an ideal spur.

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