Lions prioritise test wins after arriving in New Zealand

The British and Irish Lions landed in Auckland on Wednesday to begin their 13th rugby tour of New Zealand, facing possibly their toughest schedule as they attempt to achieve only their second test series victory over the All Blacks 47 years after the first. But that works both ways as the Lions won't want to risk starting any of their Test lineup, and while some will have to pull bench duty you'd think they'll only get game time if absolutely necessary. "A lot of people couldn't believe it and thought I was joking at first", Gavin said.

The first part of the Lions tour kicks into gear on Saturday in Whangerai, when the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians provide the opposition for what will be the visitors' most straightforward contest.

It's a game plan that has come under siege on the British Isles in recent weeks, as local pundits and the likes of England coach Eddie Jones have publicly questioned Warrenball's suitability against proficient running-rugby opponents in New Zealand. He's made a strong impression on the group already. "I am also liking the players coming through at a time when there are injury worries to regular All Blacks - and we are seeing the emergence of guys who we haven't previously heard about". I'm not sure a lot of people in New Zealand watch the Pro12, Premiership or even the Six Nations and as a result they don't know too numerous players.

"It is pleasing for us to have so many in there", said Jones, whose side equalled the All Blacks' record of consecutive Test wins earlier this year. "It's the highest level of rugby you could ever watch or play". They've never really anxious about us in terms of the way they've prepared.

The first of 10 Tests takes place this Saturday against a New Zealand Barbarians side in Whangarei in the North Island. I think that the players are well aware of that'.

The Provincial Unions (3 June in Whangarei) is made up of at least one player from each of the 14 Mitre 10 Cup Unions not now with a Super Rugby squad, plus one player from the amateur ranks.

The idea behind the two-week trip, which runs from June 12-26/27, is to engage with youth teams in New Zealand, to find out what they're doing and try to replicate that in the home nations.

The Lions' overall Test record in New Zealand dating back to 1904 stands at six wins, three draws and 29 losses, a success rate of just 16 percent.

"The balance of the squad is really good, we have selected the majority of players who were together for the training weeks in Wales and Ireland and they have worked together and prepared well for a number of weeks", he said.

  • Julie Sanders