Jeremy Thrush: Lions must win first Test against All Blacks

Esther Moore
May 31, 2017

Hansen also took aim at Gatland's comments that he was embarrassed to be a New Zealander when he witnessed the "arrogance" of the fans and country's media when the All Blacks beat Australia previous year to win a record 18th straight test.

No Test matches were played on that tour, but there was still a 35-game schedule to be tackled, including 19 matches when the Lions played a form of Australian Rules football, and the 1891 South Africa tour was the first officially-sanctioned Lions trip.

"They are world champions and play an incredible brand of rugby", said North, who is a Gillette ambassador for the Lions' New Zealand tour. The Crusaders will likely be missing some of their All Blacks, but their absence will probably only be missed in the forwards, where the entire front row and captain Sam Whitelock are likely to be selected by Steve Hansen.

"But we're only assuming that, we're not believing it until we see them play and, with a tour, you do get to see the opposition play a bit, so we'll be able to confirm one or two things prior to that first test".

Hansen appears "idiosyncratically calm", says Owen Slot of the Times, but also "abrasive".

Jones will coach a young and experimental England side in Sunday's non-cap worldwide against the Barbarians, before taking a stronger squad to next month's two-Test tour in Argentina. The Lions' first tour match is on Saturday against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

The Lions face quite the task: win a series in New Zealand, where the All Blacks haven't been beaten in a Test game in nine years.

"We've all been out for food a couple of times, had coffees, catching up with people we've met before and trying to get to know each other".

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"Qantas is seeing a really strong increase in passengers travelling from London on our New Zealand services compared to the same time previous year".

"He did a lot of work last week which was really good".

Challenging his players to take their game to a new level has been a hallmark of Hansen's style since he succeeded Graham Henry after the victory over France in the 2011 World Cup final.

Still the only Lions to win a Test series in New Zealand, coach Carwyn James forged arguably the tourists' greatest-ever outfit.

Only once has a Lions team returned triumphant from a tour against the Kiwis.

The Lions survived an onslaught in the first test in Dunedin before snatching a 9-3 win with a charge-down try. The Maori beat the Lions 19-13 in a physical encounter in Hamilton in 2005 to hand the tourists their only loss outside the tests. Warburton was the best backrower in the Six Nations and is bang on form to take on Sam Cane and give Lions some parity at the all-important break down.

He knows it is a challenge of an altogether higher order to that of 2013, when he brought "Warrenball" and his "slabs of red meat" to Australia and won the series 2-1.

Strong customer interest in the All Blacks and "New Zealand rugby winter schedules mean Air New Zealand is now purr-fecting its schedule, adding at least 46 extra domestic flights throughout the country over the coming five weeks, " said the airline's chief revenue officer Cam Wallace.

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