Combined Country XV 0-64 British & Irish Lions
Gatland defends 'useful' fixture
ESPN Staff
June 11, 2013
Lions scrum-half Conor Murray powers over to score, Combined Country XV v British & Irish Lions, Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, June 11, 2013
Lions scrum-half Conor Murray powers over to score during a one-sided clash in Newcastle © Getty Images
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British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland was adamant that his side benefitted from an easy victory over a Combined Country XV in Newcastle on Tuesday night.

The Lions coasted to a 10-try 64-0 victory over their part-time rivals at Hunter Stadium but Gatland insisted it was a valuable fixture and welcomed the extra momentum it provided his team ahead of what are expected to be much tougher outings against the Waratahs on Saturday and the Brumbies next week.

"It was a lot of use," said Gatland. "That team only had one training session together. There was some excellent stuff, and there was some average stuff as well. There were a few turnovers. There is great harmony within the squad. We are undefeated, so if we can win the next two games we will arrive in Brisbane (for the 1st Test) undefeated. We will be in a good positive frame of mind."

Gatland also revealed that winger Tommy Bowe remains hopeful of being fit for the second Test in Melbourne on June 29 but his Ireland team-mate will be handed a chance to impress having joined the squad as injury cover. "There is a good chance he (Zebo) might be involved in the next two games," Gatland added. "Now that Simon is here, we will try to involve him in some way."

Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll was full of praise for the effort of the hosts while identifying his own side's shortcomings. "It was what you would expect. Not many people get an opportunity to play against the Lions," O'Driscoll said. "They were excited about it and they weren't going to leave anything behind. We felt a couple of impacts out there.

"We probably got a little bit flat, depth-wise, and some passes were thrown behind, when a little bit of depth might have made things a lot easier. That is one easy fix. We tried to kick on in the second half, but it just didn't really happen for us at times. We should have been able to kick on, but we didn't."

Country XV coach Cameron Blades praised his players' efforts, but he was also complimentary of the Lions as the countdown continues towards the Test series. "At times in the first half it was rabbits in highlights and we struggled to react, especially when there was turnover ball. They cut us apart a few times," Blades said. "But there was really positive talk in the changing room at half-time, and I thought that showed in the second half.

"I think the Wallabies will learn a lot out of tonight. We had four props in our squad who have not played any higher than premier club rugby. They are an outstanding side, the Lions. We showed a little bit in the second half that if you can get in their face they can make errors. But they are a slick outfit - it is going to be a cracking series. They put us under a fair bit of pressure at times. They are a very organised set-piece team, but I think the Wallabies will be able to do plenty of work on them."

And captain Tim Davidson added: "In that first half we missed a couple of one-on-ones, but the width they played with was exceptional. In the second half we spoke about the longer we could defend against them, the more mistakes they would make.

"Full credit to the Lions, and how important this game was to country rugby in Australia. I really hope this is a full-time fixture in years to come. We will remember it for the rest of our lives. That is what rugby is all about."

The Lions' Richard Hibbard burrows over for a try © PA Photos
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