Rob Howley urges Lions squad to savour atmosphere around Auckland despite restaurant incident

Rob Howley urges Lions squad to savour atmosphere around Auckland despite restaurant incident

Rob Howley has told the British and Irish Lions squad to "enjoy the atmosphere" around a packed Auckland in the build-up to the first All Blacks Test.

Lions tour manager John Spencer was abused and assaulted in an Auckland Viaduct restaurant on Thursday night, but the tourists have not made any official complaint.

The former England captain was frustrated but unfazed by the unsavoury incident, where he pushed away a man who had been abusive and physical towards him.

The Lions insist they will not stop their players walking around a city flooded with thousands of Lions and All Blacks fans though, as they build up to Saturday's showdown.

"The players need to get out of the hotel, grab a quiet coffee somewhere, and enjoy the atmosphere," said Lions assistant coach Howley.

"Before the game players do what they feel is best for themselves and that's important for their preparation."

Asked if the Lions had any fears their players would become too engaged in the rocking Auckland atmosphere, Howley said: "No, I'm not worried at all."

The Lions will bid to exploit chinks in New Zealand's tactical kicking game to win Saturday's first Test in Auckland.

Howley has revealed the tourists believe they have the pace men to pounce on any loose kicking from the All Blacks at Eden Park.

The Lions have been blunt in their aims to suffocate the back-to-back world champions in Saturday's first Test - but Howley has tipped his back-three for a big impact.

Howley insisted that Liam Williams, Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson all boast a dangerous mix of full-back style positional play and wing-oriented fast feet and flair.

"In terms of his counter-attacking ability, Liam Williams was outstanding in the back-field against New Zealand last year," said Howley, of Wales' 39-21 first Test defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park on June 11, 2016.

"And I think having the two wingers alongside him in Elliot Daly and Anthony, effectively you've got three full-backs working together, and certainly understanding the strategy of the New Zealand kicking game.

Lions captain Peter O'Mahony during the Captain's Run today. Pic: Inpho
Lions captain Peter O'Mahony during the Captain's Run today. Pic: Inpho

"That will aid us, and also it's having the ability in terms of pace, late and early footwork and understanding defensive alignment and making those opportunities and being clinical when we create them.

"We're really looking forward to it because I think there will be counter-attacking opportunities against New Zealand, hence why we picked the back three.

"From a counter-attacking front adverse weather conditions have dictated a lot. Hopefully that will change on Saturday with this weather (rain) due to dry up.

"Liam has got that ability and it's just making sure that he's measured in his decision-making in terms of contact and the aerial battle.

"If we can keep our defensive line and keep our discipline, we've got a great opportunity."

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