It’s a fine line between friendship and rivalry that separates many British and Irish Lions, where players from opposing nations suddenly find themselves competing for the same positions.
There’s no bad blood between the scrum-half contingent currently jostling for prominence in South Africa, however, after Ali Price heaped praise on his rivals for a place in the XV.
Scotland scrum-half Price, 28, was selected to start the first Test in Cape Town ahead of Conor Murray and Gareth Davies, who have been nothing if not humble in their response.
It may be natural for certain athletes to take offence at not being picked before a rival, but Price told reporters his fellow No. 9s have only been a boon: “It’s been brilliant. Me, Conor, and Gareth have got on really well through the tour, helping each other after training.
“We’ll do our kicking together or a passing session. When the team got announced last week before the first Test, Conor was the first to come and say ‘well done, mate’. When we got on the bus Gareth was the same, shook my hand and said ‘well done’.
“We’re helping each other, Conor’s got that experience and when I came in at half-time he was first there saying ‘you’ve gone well’. That gives you so much confidence when you hear that from a guy who has been there, and you know he was on the last Lions tour, and that’s all good to hear.”
Ireland star Murray, 32, is among the more senior players in South Africa, and it was he who took over the captaincy when it briefly looked as though Alun Wyn Jones’ tour was over.
The Munster man came off the bench to replace Price in the first Test, earning his sixth Lions cap on his third tour with the squad overall.
Davies, 30, also has prior experience with the Lions after travelling to New Zealand as injury cover in 2017, although he’s yet to feature under Test conditions.
Nevertheless, it was newcomer Price who got the start in Cape Town and helped marshal the team to a 22-17 win, putting the Lions on the verge of a first series victory in South Africa since 1997.
The Glasgow Warrior added: “It’s been really enjoyable and we’ve all fed off each other. At the same time, it’s friendly and we’re going for the same shirt. Once that’s been decided, we’re all backing the guy that’s going out there and playing.”
Price is hoping to keep his spot in Warren Gatland ’s starting XV for the second Test on Saturday, when a win would see the touring team seal a series win with one game to spare.
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