Conor Murray: British & Irish Lions captain says Warren Gatland's tourists are out to put smiles on faces
Every match from the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa will be exclusively live on Sky Sports; fans who don't have Sky will be able to catch all the action via streaming service NOW TV, which offers day and month passes
By PA Media/Reuters
Last Updated: 29/06/21 3:25pm
Conor Murray insists the British & Irish Lions squad are fully behind the tour to South Africa despite the hosts nation's escalating coronavirus crisis.
A surge in Covid cases in the Gauteng region that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria has forced South Africa into a 'level four' lockdown, bringing with it travel restrictions, an alcohol ban and an overnight curfew.
The entire Springboks squad was forced into isolation on Sunday after three players tested positive, although they have since been given the all-clear to begin training for Friday's warm-up Test against Georgia.
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A revised schedule is under discussion and questions are now being asked over the viability of the tour, but Murray insists there has been no debate within the squad over whether it is right for the Lions to be in South Africa.
"No there hasn't, not yet," said Murray, who was appointed tour captain on Saturday night after Alun Wyn Jones was ruled out by a dislocated shoulder.
"Obviously we are very aware of what's going on outside with the lockdown and things like that, and there are the protocols. But we're here to put a smile on people's faces, here and back at home.
"Since we've been here, when the bus stops at traffic lights there are people beeping at us and smiling at us. There's a good buzz around us being here.
"We're very aware of the situation outside of the hotel. We literally go from the hotel to the training ground.
"But we're very much restricted on our movements at the moment as well. It's a live document, things can change so quickly.
"We're here, we're very lucky to be doing what we're doing and very focused on putting on a show for people to get behind us and support us."
Bok fly-half Pollard raring to go after serious injury
South Africa kicking machine Handre Pollard is eagerly anticipating a return to international rugby, having suffered a serious knee injury since winning the World Cup but still not missing a Test for the Springboks.
Fly-half Pollard, whose boot helped the Springboks to the world title in 2019, is likely to again be a key factor in the Test series against the Lions later this month, but his availability was in doubt until two months ago after an anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered last September.
He only made a comeback to club rugby with his French club Montpellier in May, but he was named on Tuesday in the Springboks line-up for their first warm-up Test against Georgia in Pretoria on Friday, live on Sky Sports.
"It's massively special to be back in the team environment with your mates and the coaches. It's a special group we have here, a special environment," Pollard said.
"On a personal note, for a guy to tear his ACL and still not miss a Test match is a pretty good bargain."
Friday's Test at Pollard's old home ground Loftus Versfeld is the first for the Boks in 20 months after they beat England in the World Cup final, with last year's Test programme abandoned due to the pandemic.
Pollard was the leading points scorer at the tournament in Japan, contributing 22 alone in the final in Yokohama with his accurate kicking.
"I've been working really hard getting over the injury and had a bit of playing time at Montpellier and then tough physical training with the Springboks. Physically and mentally I'm raring to go," he said.
Pollard has successfully bounced back from a previous knee ligament injury that caused him to miss most of the 2016 season, and he fractured his eye socket in the 2019 World Cup final.
The 27-year-old said a good performance against Georgia was imperative to keep up preparations for the Lions series.
He said: "There are no words to explain the excitement of playing the Lions, and we are just glad the series is going ahead. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."