Rugby-Rivalries starting to grow as Lions hunt test starting berths

·2-min read

By Nick Said 

  CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Loose forward Hamish Watson says some old rivalries will be renewed in the coming week as the British & Irish Lions build up to the business end of their tour of South Africa with the three-test series to start on July 24. 

  The Lions will have a final run-out against the Stormers on Saturday before taking on the world champion Springboks, offering a last chance for players to put up their hand for test selection. 

  "There are rivalries all over the park, that’s why the Lions are so good," Watson told reporters on Thursday. "You’ve got 37 or however many players out here all fancying their chances of a starting spot. It brings out the best in all the players to have this tough competition." 

  The Scotland international is probably vying with England’s Tom Curry to play in the first test. Curry performed well in the 17-13 loss to South Africa ‘A’ on Wednesday, and Watson knows it is now his chance to impress against the Stormers. 

  "He (Curry) obviously played really well, so now it is on to the next game to try and show what you can and put your best foot forward," Watson said. 

  "The boys are getting a bit more excited now that we are getting to the business end of the tour and that is ultimately why everyone is here, to try and get selected for those test matches. Everything has ramped up now as we get closer to those games." 

  Watson acknowledged it was tough to watch Wednesday’s game from the sidelines, after it was billed as an unofficial "fourth test" given the strength of the South African side. He would have relished the intense physical battle. 

  Those who did play may now be looked on more favourably by coach Warren Gatland for the experience. 

  "We were watching the game from the stand and you just want to be on the pitch. It was a step up (in intensity) and we are building nicely towards the test matches," Watson said. 

  "It was good for those guys to get a physical battle, but we are all professionals and have had those sorts of battles at some point in our careers. It is our job to step up to the challenge." 

  (Reporting by Nick Said, Editing by Timothy Heritage) 

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