Hansen expects ABs to face 'Warrenball' in Lions tests

The Lions head to New Zealand as heavy underdogs.

He said: "If majority are not playing, what's stopping them getting on a plane now with most of the squad, for example?"

Farrell, who was part of the 2013 squad which won in Australia, insisted that the setback of losing Billy Vunipola has not undermined the squad's confidence.

The All Blacks coach does not believe the Lions have afforded themselves enough time to acclimatise before the first of 10 games against the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on Saturday.

Whilst the wildly successful England coach, who has lost just one worldwide since taking charge after the 2015 World Cup failure, has plenty of respect for Steve Hansen's All Blacks, Home Union rivalries also come into play here.

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. Most players will only have played two or three games. Liam Williams who was Wales best player in New Zealand last summer could be on one wing with Jack Nowell on the other.

After all, the squad itself contains two New Zealand-born players in Ben Te'o and Jarryd Payne, plus an Irish South African in CJ Stander.

If New Zealand can deny that edge, then they have the backs to take the Lions.

The last tour in 2005 generated a total economic benefit of about NZ$250 million (137.46 million pounds), with New Zealand Rugby pocketing nearly NZ$25 million and similar estimates are projected this year.

England's World Cup-winning supremo Sir Clive Woodward was given the task of leading the Lions to New Zealand - traditionally their toughest destination - but it proved a miserable mission. But spare a thought (and maybe a prayer) for the second team as their Tour could become a nightmare.

"They are world champions and play an incredible brand of rugby", said North, who is a Gillette ambassador for the Lions' New Zealand tour. If they win the first Test, they win the series.

Still, sport has a habit of throwing up surprises and Warren Gatland has brought together the cream of four proud rugby nations in a party he feels can achieve what only one previous Lions squad has done in more than a century of trying. I recall with great fondness the excitement generated in particular by the visit of the great 1971 side to my home province Marlborough for a match against a combined Nelson/Marlborough team, which now takes permanent shape in the form of the Tasman Makos.

"If they win the first test, they win the series".

This is the beauty of the Lions as it is perfectly feasible that the XV everyone expects will be totally different once the series starts.

His manner, and in particular his choice of political spin doctor Alistair Campbell as his media man, irritated Kiwis no end, and just made it so much harder to strike any chord with the New Zealand public. The seven-times champion Crusaders have arguably the best pack in Super Rugby and have re-discovered the ability to score tries through their backs, with flyhalf Richie Mo'unga developing into a player worthy of being in the national conversation.

There is a significant role to be played here by those Irishmen who were on the winning side against New Zealand in Chicago a year ago, and more generally there is the need for at least one player to produce the sort of swagger that the great Barry John had in 1971. The All Blacks are unbeaten at Eden Park since 1994, a run of 36 victories with one draw. "But the greater aim is to win the Test series so if any of us has any knowledge that can help the team win games from small detail, it is important we put it out there".

New Zealand secured a 3-1 series triumph.

  • Joanne Flowers