Lions will not stop celebrating 'small victories' during New Zealand tour

Lion's hooker Jamie George has insisted the British and Irish Lions will keep on celebrating "small victories" as Maro Itoje did against the Blues.

England lock Itoje jumped around back-slapping his team-mates when the Lions forced a turnover penalty late on against the Blues on Wednesday night.

The Lions thought that momentum shift would prove enough to close out victory, only for Ihaia West to race in a stunning score that stole the tie 22-16.

Itoje came in for some social media criticism - but his Saracens team-mate George revealed the Lions will keep on toasting mini-wins within matches in New Zealand.

"I've been coached since I was 14 to celebrate stuff like that, so I don't think we're going to be changing any time soon," said George, who will start for the Lions at hooker against the Crusaders on Saturday.

"It's a huge positive. In that example against the Blues we were defending for a long time and it's an important part of the game.

"At Saracens especially, we're told to celebrate the small victories. We often celebrate if we get a turnover because we want to celebrate the effort of the players around us.

"You're putting in a huge amount of effort to try and get the ball back, that's why you defend, isn't it?

"It was a refereeing decision but it was off the back of all the work our team-mates had done. Maro brings a huge amount of energy to people around him and him celebrating that shows he cares," he said.

British & Irish Lions Jamie George outside the team hotel, Christchurch. Picture: PA
British & Irish Lions Jamie George outside the team hotel, Christchurch. Picture: PA

Saracens have long since drawn strength from celebrating the forcing of momentum shifts within matches.

George insisted Itoje just naturally reacts to positive moments in games, but there can be no doubt that Saracens use the tactic to heap pressure upon opponents.

The approach can become confrontational, but Lions boss Warren Gatland would most likely want precious little else from his men in New Zealand. The All Blacks are hardly shrinking violets in the same tactic, and the Lions' methods could lead to some sparks in the fast-approaching three-Test series.

Powerful hooker George will make his first start for the Lions before he will start an England Test match. The 26-year-old has won 17 caps for England, all off the bench, as he sits behind captain Dylan Hartley.

The big-scrummaging front-rower could well force his way into the Lions' Test number two jersey with a fine showing against the Crusaders however.

Before all that though, George simply insisted the Lions will not shy away from demonstrating their delight at minor positive moments in matches.

"It's all intrinsic with Maro, he just cares about the team a huge amount and when he reacts like that, it lifts everyone else around him," said George.

"I think you look at a lot of the English guys I've played with, guys at Saracens, we're very similar in that respect.

"It shows we care for the jersey, we care for the people around us, we care for our families. Those are the people we're representing whenever we go onto the field. Maro is a very proud person, I know that, and that's probably the reason he reacted the way he did and I don't see any issue with it," he said.

- PA

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