British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland 'impressed' with Jersey rugby facilities

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image captionWarren Gatland said a Jersey visit offered the squad an "opportunity to have some sort of normality"

Warren Gatland chose Jersey to hold a British and Irish Lions pre-tour camp after being "incredibly impressed" with the island's rugby facilities.

The coach said the "hospitality" shown to his staff on his first visit to the island helped influence the decision.

The team are due to visit for 10 days in June ahead of a July and August tour of South Africa.

Mr Gatland said the squad would be regularly tested for coronavirus and would be careful during their stay.

The New Zealander said access to facilities like hydrotherapy, cryotherapy, altitude training and professional gym equipment was important in deciding on Jersey.

Speaking to the BBC, he said the "opportunity to have some sort of normality" later in the trip would help keep the players in the "right frame of mind".

'Fewer restrictions'

Mr Gatland said challenges for players spending time in bubbles over the last year made the island an attractive place to visit, as they would be subject to fewer restrictions.

Jersey offers the squad a chance to do "something a little bit different" with opportunities to "mix with a few of the locals" and "maybe go and play some golf, do a bit of fishing, go out on a boat trip", he added.

The island was chosen ahead of Guernsey, where a visit by Lions coach earlier in April attracted controversy because of stricter Covid-19 restrictions on people entering the island.

Mr Gatland said there was "no doubt" some of the "negative reaction" played a role in his decision.

He said: "The last thing I want to do is to take a team somewhere where they don't want us."

Mr Gatland said he understood some of the reaction and was keeping it "in perspective".

"Obviously they've done a brilliant job with Covid and the way they've controlled it," he added.

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