All Blacks coach Hansen criticises Lions tour schedule

Sheri Evans
May 31, 2017

Such is the crossflow of nationalities in world rugby, it is hardly surprising that a former All Black, Warren Gatland, should be masterminding the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

Warren Gatland's 41-man touring party have been tasked with coming up with four songs to best respect the culture of the four nations coming together, with nightly choir practice featuring in the training camps.

1971 was my first experience of the British Isles team as they were known then.

Not in the Tests, obviously. Players want to get there and, if they arrive, stay on.

After the turn of the 20th century the roles were reversed and the few Lions successes were restricted to forays into Argentina as well as Australia, then considered a warm-up before the real business of touring New Zealand.

After some straightforward wins, the tourists were bullied up front by their first Super 12 opposition, and the result dispelled any remaining complacency.

"Johnny and I have got on really well and after playing so often against him, it is good to be on the same side". "Being able to win Test matches, whether it's 2-1 or 1-2, they have to be competitive and be able to win Test matches". Well, a bonanza of money is one prime reason, of course, but the vast majority of players and coaches en route down under won't be thinking about this trip in that way.

"That's what came over in 1974, the time and effort that was put in by the 13 players who didn't play Test match rugby over four months".

In the case of Vunipola, for example, Haskell's admirers might argue that he is the closest thing available to the Saracens No 8. "The important thing is not to get hung-up about those things, not to worry too much about that". A strategy that involves Hamish Watson, for example.

Such was New Zealand's status as a growing force that the 1908 tour saw more games being staged in that country than Australia, and the All Blacks delivered a standard by which the Lions found themselves judged.

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McGeechan has been involved in seven tours as a player and coach.

"You'd want to be there a week at the minimum", Hansen, the All Blacks coach, said.

While it may suit Jones to say that there should be more of an English influence to the squad, fears over their style of play was echoed in yesterday's Sunday Times by Shane Horgan. But that's where the magic, mystique and romance of the Lions kicks in, there is always that element of the unknown about this band of tourists.

The key examples here are 1989 and 1993.

The first outing of the 10-match tour is in eight days, against the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.

Ever since stepping up as player-coach for Irish club Galwegians after the 1989 New Zealand tour, Gatland has forged a reputation for coaxing thoroughbred performances from underdog teams like Connacht, Ireland and Wales.

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. "It's only a game". I would like a 3-0 win for the ABs. It's only the All Blacks.

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

The Lions will hope for the best but it is not likely to be plain-sailing.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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