Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Lions will 'struggle' against All Blacks, says Eddie Jones

Vera Richards | 03 June, 2017, 02:45

History is against the Lions in New Zealand, however, with their lone series win against the All Blacks coming back in 1971. He is a joker and can drink with the best of them but he can also play and was outstanding against the Wallabies last summer.

Not in the Tests, obviously.

"I would have really wanted to play for the Highlanders if it was possible but a game has been scheduled and if selected then that is what I have to do".

The crucial thing, however, is drawing the correct lessons from a defeat.

"I would like a 3-0, but maybe 2-1 to New Zealand". Sure enough, when the Lions met the Springboks for the first Test in Cape Town, the front row was Tom Smith of Scotland and Irish duo Keith Woods and Paul Wallace.

When the side embarked on their next tour four years later to South Africa - two years after the sport went professional - players were on big-dollar contracts and also cashing in off the field in a range of private marketing contracts. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" can be a decent rule of thumb, after all, but too often coaches persist with a winning formula when the circumstances have changed.

When it comes to over-reliance on players who have done a job for him in the past, by contrast, Gatland continues to cause concern. "Who we are as a country, our culture, and what it means to be New Zealanders".

So appointing Gatland, for whom this will be a third successive tour and second as head coach, was the logical choice.

"As soon as I'm on that taxi ride on my way up I'll be thinking of what's ahead of me; getting the chance to play for the Lions, which is any rugby player's dream", Nowell said following Saturday's final.

The word from the Lions is that Gatland has inflicted ferocious training sessions on them as a necessary prequel to warm-up games against full-strength Super Rugby teams. The Lions have played just one previous test at Wellington Regional Stadium, and it was not auspicious.

The key examples here are 1989 and 1993.

The 92-Test worldwide visited the grave of David Gallagher, the man who captained the All Blacks on their first ever tour in 1905-06.

Again, an obvious one, but never more necessary than against the All Blacks, whose triumphs at the last World Cup have burnished their aura of invincibility.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, meanwhile, will focus his attention on Round 15 of Super Rugby where players from all five New Zealand franchises will be in action.

"Don't worry, boys", the fly-half's fellow-Welshman Mervyn Davies remembers him saying in When Lions Roared. "I'm enjoying it. That's one of the things that will bring you together. there's been a fair amount of it, to be fair, and I hope it will be good". It's only the All Blacks.

"Yes you want to perform well, but if you drop a game because you're trying something then it's not the end of the world".

You need to be quite good to get away with that sort of statement, obviously.

He already knows what it is like to beat the legendary men from the land of his birth after being part of Ireland's historic victory over the back-to-back world champions in Chicago last autumn.

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