ALI PRICE has had an arm-chair ride so far in South Africa as scrum-half for the British and Irish Lions behind a dominant pack in big wins over the Sigma Lions [14-56] and the Cell C Sharks [7-54], which has allowed to demonstrate how his speed to the breakdown, slick service and sniping ability can be a major asset for the tourists.  

However, Wednesday’s defeat to a shadow South African side provided a timely reminder that Warren Gatland’s side will not have it all their own way when the Test series kicks off next Saturday night, and the Scotsman could really do with the Stormers putting him under a bit more pressure tonight so that he can show he has the patience, resilience, technique and tactical nous to be an effective No9 in a real battle.  

Of course, it is highly unlikely that the Lions forwards – who are all also battling for Test selection – will be in any sort of mood to roll over to an understrength Stormer outfit, and Price says he is happy with that because as a team player he recognises that it is far more important that the collective use the game to build some winning momentum after Wednesday’s set-back. All he can do is make the most of whatever opportunities come his way, with his number one priority being to play the opposition and not the occasion. 

“I’d love us to be on the front foot tomorrow,” insisted the 28-year-old. “I think you can still demonstrate how you are going to approach a game when the opposition might be slightly stronger. I’ve still got to execute my basics well regardless of if I am on the front foot or not – exiting is important and decision-making is important, regardless of whether you are going forward or it is a physical battle on the gain-line.  

The current front-runner for the No9 jersey in next Saturday’s first Test is Conor Murray. The Irishman – who is nominally still tour captain despite Alun Wyn Jones’ remarkable return to the fold this week– was widely criticised for his performance on Wednesday, with some of his decision-making suspects, some of his kicking inaccurate and some of his passing either laboured or wayward or both. However, he is a veteran of the 2017 Lions Test series in New Zealand and has a long track record of producing the goods when it really matters, so the Lions selection panel have big decision to make on whether to back pedigree or potential. 

“I’m just going to go out there and do my job,” added Price. “You can only play what is in front of you. I wasn’t selected for the game on Wednesday, I’m selected for this game so that is the focus. We’ve got the structures and the shape in place, and it is just about going out there and executing to the best of my ability and taking the opportunities that are there. If there is a massive gap or a short side to be exposed, I’m not going ignore it because I don’t think that’s what’s going to be presented to me in the Test series. I’m still going to play the game, which I think everyone would do.”