COACH Cam Blades has tried not to do too much talking as he prepares Combined Country for the herculean task of tackling the British and Irish Lions at Hunter Stadium on Tuesday night.
The side is a mix of amateur players from the bush and fringe Super Rugby players whose origins are in the country.
Most of the squad assembled in Newcastle on Thursday. The Super Rugby players will filter in over the weekend, giving Blades less than 48 hours with the full squad.
"There is not a lot of time or point in trying to improve the players technically," he said.
"The first part of the camp is to get the wider squad up to speed and understanding of what we are trying to do.
"A lot of us do the same things in our different teams. It is making sure we are on the same page in understanding those structures and getting familiar with each other.
"It is about bonding together as a group. We are banking on the fact that the Super guys who are coming in will slot in pretty quickly."
Though preferring to let the players to do most of the communicating, Blades did deliver one strong message.
"It is not good enough just to make a team like this," he said. "If you put your hand up, you have to make sure you are making a positive contribution to the side.
"I have been really impressed with the way guys have taken that challenge on so far in training."
Wanderers prop Dylan Evans and teammate Lewie Catt (centre) are among nine country-based players in the squad.
"I have learned a lot in the last 24 hours," Evans said.
"We have done two big field sessions and a scrum session this morning. We didn't have a scrum machine so we packed a few live ones. It was a good, hard hit-out."
The Lions opened the Australian leg of the tour with a 69-17 win over an under-strength Western Force in Perth on Wednesday night.
They led 27-3 at half-time on the way to a nine-tries-to-two flexing off the muscles.
"That performance reinforced that the Lions are everything that we thought they were going to be," Blades said. "The Force certainly fronted up and it was quite structured in the early stages.
"The Lions just wear you down.
"Anyone who comes up against them will be a massive underdog."
NSW Country held the Lions to a respectable 46-3 scoreline in Coffs Harbour on their last visit Down Under in 2001. Newcastle supplied seven players to that side, which was beefed up by four Sydney-based players.
"Rugby was four or five years into professionalism at that stage. We are 17 years into it now," Blades said.
"All the players in the British Lions have only ever known full-time professional rugby. To compare those eras doesn't do anyone any justice.
"They are totally different eras. Half of our side are amateurs. We are not kidding ourselves in the task ahead.
"This is a unique team, it is a unique concept in trying to bring everyone in together."
Eight-page Lions-Country liftout in Tuesday's Herald.