With the series now done and dusted, it’s clear the Lions were underestimated

wre01 Roar Guru

By wre01, wre01 is a Roar Guru

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    A few months ago I dared to suggest that the Lions may win the series against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

    The article was widely ridiculed, not just by Kiwis but many in Britain and Ireland.

    Lions supporters, as they often are, were strongly critical of selections. The Scots, in particular, considered themselves especially hard done by and many thought that the Welsh contingent weakened the squad.

    New Zealanders broadly fell into two camps.

    First, there were those who recognised the talent in the Lions’ squad but dismissed the possibility of it jelling due to lack of preparation. This was fair enough, after all, it is always an issue for these tours.

    But there were also those who saw the Lions as ‘just another Northern Hemisphere rugby side’. Plagued by slow play and lack of skill, they stood little chance of getting close to the All Blacks.

    Owen Farrell was ‘just a kicking machine’. The Lions forwards were considered stodgy and, well, fat.

    There is no denying that this was the perception pre-tour. Even during the tour, particularly after the defeat to the Blues, many Kiwis in this very forum were declaring the Lions second rate and out of their depth.

    The fact the Lions XV included a spine of Saracens who had won back-to-back European titles seemed to be totally downplayed. After all, that’s just some competition in Europe.

    This attitude was astonishing to me. That spine of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell had swept all before them in Europe including a Toulon side led by Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana and Juan Smith.

    When you also consider that Farrell had been pivotal in beating the All Blacks with England in 2012, the Lions’ series win in Australia and two straight Six Nations in 2015 and 2016, and the casual writing off of the Lions pre-tour made even less sense.

    Owen Farrell British and Irish Lions Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP IMAGE/Adam Binns)

    All of that is quite before the fact that the Irish contingent had some considerable confidence going into the Test series courtesy of their win, albeit against a weakened All Blacks in Chicago.

    Did the All Blacks underestimate the Lions?

    It is hard to seriously argue that Steve Hansen and his side would have consciously fallen into that trap. But when all the commentary coming from the public and media was downright dismissive of the Lions’ chances, could that truly be blocked out?

    There will always be arguments about penalties, yellow cards and red cards.

    Was Romain Poite influenced unduly by Sam Warburton? Should the All Blacks have been awarded penalties earlier in the game at all? Was Sonny Bill really deserving of a red card or would a yellow have sufficed?

    All of these questions will stoke pub debates and dinner table dialogue for decades to come. But the fact remains that the Lions, coached by ‘the clown’ and assembled with no preparation time, from a world where rugby is played in slow motion, were never meant to get even close.

    They drew the series.

    Going forward, the Southern Hemisphere rugby public needs to wake up to the fact that there is somewhat of a revolution going on in European rugby.

    More elite level players from New Zealand and particularly South Africa are heading north to club rugby, not just to retire but in the prime of their careers. This is having an undoubted effect on playing style and skill levels.

    Huge financial resources, particularly in England, are being thrown at the World Cup in 2019 and beyond. These resources dwarf anything available in New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.

    During the Six Nations, Wales, Ireland and Scotland were all coached by Kiwis. England was coached by Eddie Jones.

    Don’t for one second think that Eddie wasn’t quietly thrilled to see the spine of the English side exposed to the furnace of three Tests against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

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    The Crowd Says (75)

    • July 10th 2017 @ 10:44am
      Jock Cornet said | July 10th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

      England and abs will be miles ahead of all others. Eddies got a great side.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 7:03pm
        wre01 said | July 10th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

        Jock
        When you think of the stars (and depth) at Eddie’s disposal you have to wonder whether England will be harder to beat than the Lions, especially given they will have plenty of preparation time.
        Any nation that has Itoje, Kruis, Lawes and Launchbury all as locks must be in great nick. England’s ‘C Team’ with all the Lions missing still managed a 2 nil series win in Argentina.
        If nothing else, the LIons series should alert the Kiwi public to the fact that England will be a major threat (not just another NH side)

        • July 11th 2017 @ 4:02am
          FunBus said | July 11th 2017 @ 4:02am | ! Report

          Kruis also plays for Saracens, wre01. In fact if it wasn’t for Billy Vunipola’s injury and Gatland’s obsession with Alun Wyn Jones you may well have had 5 Saracens in the Lions pack.

          I think you’ve brought up an important point regarding the tour of Argentina. I was very interested in how they would go. Apart from the Lions absentees there were also significant other injuries and absences. In all, 30 players were unavailable for selection. Five players that went were eligible to have played in the under-20 RWC. The open-side kid (Curry) making his debut was 18. He had a stormer against a very physical Argentine back-row. England are in a good place.

          • July 13th 2017 @ 4:31am
            adastra32 said | July 13th 2017 @ 4:31am | ! Report

            The kid Curry also has a twin who plays alongside him at Sale but who was injured for the Arg tour – both highly rated. It’s all looking very promising…

        • July 12th 2017 @ 1:14pm
          Jock Cornet said | July 12th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

          Agree, can’t wait till they meet. Also Itoje will get better and better . Eddie will know how to exploit the abs weaknesses.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 7:23pm
        Henry honey balls said | July 12th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

        England and the ABs cant really claim to be miles ahead of Ireland if they both lose to them can they?

        • July 12th 2017 @ 11:25pm
          Jock Cornet said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:25pm | ! Report

          I hope Ireland are strong but I think they are too old. They are weak in sections. Some world class greats such as Conor and Obrien but overall too old

          • July 13th 2017 @ 2:05am
            Henry honey balls said | July 13th 2017 @ 2:05am | ! Report

            The average of the Ireland squad is 25, the average age of the England is 24. I dont see much difference really. The average age of the current NZ squad is 26. Are they too old?

            • July 14th 2017 @ 2:10am
              Jock Cornet said | July 14th 2017 @ 2:10am | ! Report

              It would be great if Ireland became super strong as well, good luck to ya, I just don’t see any weaknesses in the England team, but I do love the Ireland pack.

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2017 @ 11:03am
      Hoy said | July 10th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      I don’t think they were underestimated, but rather the All Blacks played well below where they know they can play. They made simple errors, and costly discipline issues abounded…

      Say that the Lions forced these errors all you want, but most were really unforced, which is pretty uncharacteristic of the Blacks…

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 7:14pm
        The Neutral View From Sweden said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

        Sure thing Hoy

        That the AB’s only scored five tries in three Tests has nothing to do with opponents.

        It was all down to the AB’s… but – the big question – why?

        • July 12th 2017 @ 11:48am
          Wobbliesarewoeful said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          Always such a deep thinker … lol

        • July 12th 2017 @ 11:49am
          Wobbliesarewoeful said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          You’re a light weight … you’re analysis childlike and your understanding of the game at a very low level

      • July 12th 2017 @ 10:26pm
        Jeffrey said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:26pm | ! Report

        Agreed. The ABs under performed and the injuries had a big part to play towards that. The ABs were missing four world class players and Liam Squire who is an excellent impact player. Not having Smith Crotty, Williams and Coles will leave a huge hole in any team. In addition to that, losing SBW in Wellington and only playing with 14 men should not be underestimated, so I really don’t think the Lions were any better than what we expected them to be. Perhaps their defensive structures were better than expected but overall, I thought they were good without being outstanding.

    • July 10th 2017 @ 11:16am
      taylorman said | July 10th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Absolutely we underestimated the Lions. Why? All the information available lead strongly to the conclusion that the AB’s would win, again.. Lions historically fail here ‘as a matter of course’ and only one team had beaten the ABs from the four in six years. What else would one think?

      The majority of Lions supporters also underestimated the Lions team. Those that didnt went on ‘gut feel’, ‘hope’ and ‘this time…’ and are probably now ‘claiming’ that

      Very few went on hard data, simply because there was little available. It was all…’Oh England are playing well etc etc’

      And they didnt win so your article heading is still actually incorrect.

      And to draw it took a couple of majors such as SBWs red card, key missed goalkicks, though Barretts overall rate was very good, even keyer injuries to Smith and Crotty, and I wont mention the penalty debacle as I dont see it as a reason we didnt win.

      The Lions played exceptionally well but they also managed to avoid the red card impact, had very good goalkicking, and with the players that were injured, mainly Hogg and Vunipola prior to the tests ably replaced them , and, avoided any significant injury loss during the three tests, a miracle in itself.

      Very good yes, but they also had a slightly, not overly, but slightly better run with the birdy on the shoulder.

      ABs should have overcome al that with the home advantage, experience as a team versus the Lions recent getting together etc and that will be a concern for Hansen, who I thought was a bit too low key, almost expecting the series reesult to pan his way.

      Ok for a fan, not as a coach. Theyve got some work to do, particularly in the midfield.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 6:52pm
        wre01 said | July 10th 2017 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

        Taylorman
        Just curious about what you classify/ define as ‘hard data’.
        As I say in the article, the warning signs were there 2-3 months ago:
        (a) You had a Saracens side that had played some sensational rugby against high quality teams and won 2 European titles in a row (it went on to provide Vunipola, George, Itoje and Farrell- all key men for the Lions).
        (b) You had England who had beaten the Wallabies 3 nil in Australia and won a Grand Slam for the first time in more than 10 years.
        (c) Then there was Ireland who had gained enormous belief from the 2 tests against NZ in 2016. Sean O’Brien is the sort of 7 that the Kiwis hate to play against and affects their flow- slows the ball, holds players up, disrupts the breakdown.
        (d) Farrell had already beaten the AB’s in 2012, had won 2 European championships and back to back Six nations all by 25. He had played at 12 for 2 seasons for England and been dynamic and much more than a ‘kicker’.
        The All Blacks are also an incredibly young side and Reed had lost a ton of leadership (McCaw, Carter, Mealamu, Nonu, Smith).
        This isn’t a ‘I told you so’ article. But I think NZ needs to be fully on alert for England now. I think they will be tougher to beat than the Lions.

        • July 10th 2017 @ 8:18pm
          Rugby Tragic said | July 10th 2017 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

          wre01, TM will probably respond when available but if I might mention a few issues here.

          Firstly, its not about AB and England, if a side is not ‘fully alert’ they are going to get beaten. Both the AB’s and England were beaten by Ireland in the last 12 months… what does that tell you.

          As to whether the Lions or England will be harder for the All Blacks to beat, I think that is a hard call …. just last weekend the AB’s failed to beat the Lions … to suggest that England would have won that game can never be substantiated so pointless going there imo.

          Yes the All Blacks presently are a young side, particularly in the backs, and experience is of course lacking. But the experience just increased by 23 caps on Saturday. If I personally have a worry, it’s in the leadership. Not taking anything away from Read but his leadership support group, particularly among the backs missing the steady hands of Crotty and Ben Smith is yet to meld the next group.

          From October onwards, I believe that the All Blacks will be building towards the RWC in Japan… it will give close to 20 tests before Japan 2019 and mid build up, they are scheduled to play England. If the other home union teams, SA and Aussie do not provide the competition then England will possibly present a marker of where they are, come the end of 2018.

          The depth and depth of the teams come from players who have been through the systems. England had a good few years and successes with their juniors which is reflecting on the representative sides now.

          NZ too has always been strong in the age groups and only this year the NZ U20 side thrashed the English U20’s in the final of their world cup 64-17, without some stars such as Reiko Ioane, Jordie Barrett etc.

          As a result I think the ABs have some way to go before they head into any significant decline…. only time will tell….

          • July 10th 2017 @ 10:00pm
            Colin N said | July 10th 2017 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

            “NZ too has always been strong in the age groups and only this year the NZ U20 side thrashed the English U20’s in the final of their world cup 64-17, without some stars such as Reiko Ioane, Jordie Barrett etc.”

            England were missing 14 players from that squad so that unfortunately deprived us of a great game, but it was quite comfortably the best set of U20s that New Zealand has produced since 2011.

            • July 11th 2017 @ 2:39pm
              richard said | July 11th 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

              So what,you play with what you have got.All I have read on English sites is how they were missing key players,so it doesn’t count.Always good at denigrating another team’s achievement.

              Even if you had your full strength team,there is no guarantee England would have won,considering the disparity in the scoreline.

              • July 11th 2017 @ 7:03pm
                Colin N said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

                “All I have read on English sites is how they were missing key players,so it doesn’t count.Always good at denigrating another team’s achievement.”

                Did you miss the part where I said it was New Zealand’s best age-grade side since 2011? That team produced something like 12 All Blacks and a Wales international.

                “Even if you had your full strength team,there is no guarantee England would have won,considering the disparity in the scoreline.”

                Which is pretty much what I stated when saying, ‘that deprived us of a great game.’

                The last time you commented on this topic you made up a random fact and then didn’t respond to my following point, it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 7:33am
                richard said | July 12th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

                OK,then why even bring it up in the first place.By doing that,it brings into question the validity of the NZ team’s win.And btw,NZ weren’t at full strength either.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 10:33am
                Colin N said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

                “OK,then why even bring it up in the first place.”

                Because providing context to a result isn’t denigrating, and I would say exactly the same thing if roles were reversed.

                People who are ignorant see the result 64-17 and think, ‘this New Zealand crop must be streets ahead of England,’ but what they don’t see is the players England had missing. It doesn’t take away New Zealand’s brilliance, because there were several future All Blacks in that team, but there is a caveat.

                “And btw,NZ weren’t at full strength either.”

                Yep, J. Barrett, Ioane but who else? I thought there were a couple more but that’s it.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 10:43am
                Jacko said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

                The ABs U20s lost their no 10 for the final and had to fly a guy in from NZ that had not been at the tournament until the final

              • July 12th 2017 @ 11:00am
                richard said | July 12th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

                Whatever.England have won tournaments in 2013,14 and 16.So,they have dominated in recent times.Yet,as soon as they get beaten,there is a ready made excuse.

                For all that,we are in agreement on one thing – this is the best NZ team since 2011.I would even argue it is potentially our best side ever.

              • July 12th 2017 @ 6:49pm
                Colin N said | July 12th 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

                Good point Jacko, forgot about the loss of Falcon.

                “Whatever.England have won tournaments in 2013,14 and 16.So,they have dominated in recent times.Yet,as soon as they get beaten,there is a ready made excuse.”

                It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact; take it or leave it. That you can’t accept it and get offended by someone providing context is your problem.

            • July 12th 2017 @ 10:31pm
              Jeffrey said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:31pm | ! Report

              I would like to know who these 14 players are. Most are of the opinion that only 6 first choice players were missing.

              • July 13th 2017 @ 12:32am
                Colin N said | July 13th 2017 @ 12:32am | ! Report

                ‘Only’ six. I like that one.

                14 players missing, most of those would be in the 23.

                The first XV would have looked something like this is everyone was available:

                1. Adams-Hale, 2. Mullis, 3. Knight/Street, 4. Isiekwe, 5. Nay/Caulfield, 6. B. Curry, 7. T. Curry, 8. Mercer, 9. Maunder, 10. Malins, 11. Aspland-Robinson/Ibitoye. 12. Butler/Brophy-Clews. 13. Morris, 14. Cokanasiga, 15. Shillcock.

                So that’s seven certainties who were out. Aspland-Robinson was first choice before the tournament but Ibitoye was excellent throughout in his absence while Brophy-Clews, I’m assuming, would have been preferred for his experience. So if those selections are made then you’re looking nine, maybe 10 if you count Street (A guy still eligible for U18 but highly-rated) over Knight.

                It’s also about who was missing. Without Morris (or replacement Wright) and Cokanasiga, they lacked size in the backline and without Isiekwe they lacked their lineout leader (the set-piece was an absolute shambles against South Africa).

              • July 13th 2017 @ 1:16am
                Jeffrey said | July 13th 2017 @ 1:16am | ! Report

                Fair enough. You obviously know the English u20s setup pretty well. I was just going of what the commentators had said and also what a lot of the guys on PR were saying.

                I agree with you that England will be as serious threat to the ABs over the next ten years. Exciting times.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 9:53pm
        Colin N said | July 10th 2017 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

        “Why? All the information available lead strongly to the conclusion that the AB’s would win, again.. Lions historically fail here ‘as a matter of course’ and only one team had beaten the ABs from the four in six years. What else would one think?”

        Most thought that the All Blacks would win, including me, but some posters, including yourself, thought that the Lions would get thrashed and therein lies the difference.

        Plenty of NH posters on here said that this was the most talented squad we’ve sent down south for some time and the end result, I think, proved that. Personally, I went for the All Blacks to win 2-1 and I thought all three games would be tight.

        Having said that, the games played out very differently to how I thought they would. I was convinced the Lions front-five would have the edge, with Murray, Sexton and Farrell, as a result, controlling the kicking battle, but the All Blacks countered that superbly.

        However, the Lions made up for their scrum weakness by showing a quality in attack and, when they did have possession, they put the New Zealand defence under pressure.

        The All Blacks did still edge most areas of the game, particularly in the third Test, but crucially their decision-making let them down and the Lions handled the pressure moments slightly better.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 10:33am
          Coconut said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          The match stats in the last game tell the real story.. The ABs contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But for one or two less handling errors with the try line open, or indeed one sitter of a penalty, we would not even being having this conversation.
          Anyway it is what it is, a drawn series – however I’m not reading too much into it. I am worried a little bit about the ability of the refs to do more than one job at a time, and hence I think many sides are going to be following the blueprint of the Lions in terms of having a rushing defense to shut down any attack, and the off-side thing is going to get difficult to police especially if the ref is simply not able to keep an eye on it.
          We’ll see what happens come Rugby Championship time..

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 7:22pm
        The Neutral View From Sweden said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

        T-man!

        We will have many chances to get into this in detail later on, but I want to say this before we start any kind of discussion about this:

        You have taken this draw – and some very tough ref calls – like a true rugby man. And in our little univesrse that is worth a lot. Repsect dear T-man! If I knew you and we lived in the same town, I would buy you lunch and dinner all week.

        I am sorry for some rather rude and personal slurs that I have been sending your way the last month.

      • July 12th 2017 @ 7:27pm
        Henry honey balls said | July 12th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

        My logic for thinking that the ABs were in for a shock was because the rugby championship was very weak in 2016 and made the ABs look better than they were. The ABs tour to the NH provided infinitely closer tests including a loss and this to me suggested that the Lions had the goods to do the job particularly as NZ lost the forward battle twice against Ireland. These claims or “facts” were rubbished by you Taylorman. Short memory.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 7:40pm
          Henry honey balls said | July 12th 2017 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

          I also referenced the ABs discipline issues as a weakness. Interesting that it turned out that the Irish media were right as the ABs red card probably lost them the series.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 1:27pm
            Jeffrey said | July 14th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

            They drew the series lol…drew!!!!

    • July 10th 2017 @ 12:58pm
      R2D2 said | July 10th 2017 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

      The Lions game plan was pretty basic and it suited them . They played their game to the maximum and it was no surprise. If you look at possible upside of the Lions , they have limitations .The ABs game plan provided more variety and scoring options and if they get it right , they will blow you away. The ABs have just developed new talent in forwards and backs . The young guns have arrived in this series and with the old heads , the ABs are just going to get better. The drawn series will hurt and it will be a source for more determination and excellence.

      • Roar Guru

        July 10th 2017 @ 2:18pm
        taylorman said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

        Yes true, without taking it away from the Lions there is still a huge difference in the fundamental approach to the game.

        NZ sides will select based on a concept of scoring tries and will fit the set piece work in and around that to achieve it.

        NH sides, at least the Lions, select based on having the set pieces in place and will fit the scoring of tries, including open rugbu, around that.

        Its a subtle but critical fundamental which is why we got what we did, a confused mixtire of each trying to play their own style.

        It also reflects in the matches when two alikes play eachother, such as Super rugby and the 6N.

        Each ‘gets’ the other where most of this series was spent trying to work eachother out.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2017 @ 2:36pm
          Ralph said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          Vive le’ difference!

        • July 10th 2017 @ 2:42pm
          Rugby Tragic said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

          TM, the other point was the outstanding defence of the BIL’s … many dared suggest they were not fit enough .. well I do not recall them in any of the 3 tests falling away…

          Davies chasing down Laumape was outstanding … he had no right to catch him… but he did, he never gave up in that chase nor in any of his defensive endeavours in the whole series…. probably the MVP for me for the Lions followed by Murray and Itoje. Special mention for Watson … the BIL’s Nehe Milner-Skudder …

          For the AB’s for me the player of the series was Sam Cane… just kept doing his thing. Followed by Retallick then A Smith who I thought has a very good series. Jordie Barrett was great but he only played the one test, as was Ngani Laumape…

          Now in all fairness I was not one who underestimated the Lions… history is great to tell us where we have been… now if heed is paid to the lessons of the past… history does not tell us where we are going. I never thought they were going to be easy…. but I did expect the AB’s to prevail .. .. Ahhh the beauty of sport!

          • July 11th 2017 @ 9:46am
            BBA said | July 11th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

            Whoever tackled Barret when he got that intercept from Farrell (might have been Davies again) deserves a real wrap, as Barrett is so quick that if he got a few more paces away he would have been very hard to catch.

            I do agree with the general sentiment and that our raw backline needs experience and we need to be clear in how we intend to deal with the rush defense, as everyone will be implementing it against us now.

            Nothing wrong with our talent factory though, and for the Lions to be hailing this tour as a great success with a 50% win record is still a testament to our strength in depth. However we wont encounter many teams with depth greater than the Lions (potentially only the Boks if they could select all players that they have available to them).

            • July 11th 2017 @ 12:51pm
              Jock Cornet said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              I agree i overerestimated the NZ backline and underestimates the lions backline. Farrell was great

              • July 12th 2017 @ 7:32pm
                Henry honey balls said | July 12th 2017 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

                Id say Farrell was one of the weakest Lions backs over the three tests. He missed the most tackles of all Lions, gave up the most yards in defence and gained very few in attack and made some fairly basic errors. Sexton by contrast made more yards from the 10 position and only missed 1 tackle in three tests as opposed to Farrell’s 8 missed tackles.

                Farrell does deserve credit for making some important kicks even if his over kicking percentages were below his best. He wasn’t great over all though.

            • July 11th 2017 @ 7:38pm
              ClarkeG said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

              Williams made the tackle on Barrett – got him on the third grab around the ankles.

              It was also Williams who made the tackle on Junior Barrett in the corner after he easily dealt to Daly. If Williams misses that tackle – Barrett scores – ABs win series.

          • July 11th 2017 @ 7:18pm
            ClarkeG said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

            Gee…Laumape has never struck me as a player who is going to runaway from players such as Davies and Watson from 65+ metres out.

            However I have to say he showed a lack of skill and rugby nous in that situation. Savea did the right thing and made himself available but he never got the ball. Just an example of another chance squandered.

        • July 11th 2017 @ 4:18am
          FunBus said | July 11th 2017 @ 4:18am | ! Report

          ‘NH sides, at least the Lions, select based on having the set pieces in place and will fit the scoring of tries, including open rugbu, around that.’

          I broadly agree with that, TM. However, it’s another element of the England game that has changed over the last 2 or 3 years. At Under-20 level they’ve not been bossing the set-pieces as they’ve gone for more skilful forwards rather than big hulks. The last 2 years a number of packs including NZ, Australia, Wales, SA and Ireland have been bigger than England at U-20 level.
          This has also happened at senior level. There are a few better scrummaging props than Vunipola and Sinckler in England. But they’re being selected for their dynamism. Similarly there’s a kid called Genge coming through who was selected for Argentina because of the dynamism he brings. It’s an important change in philosophy and another reason why I think the AB-England rivalry is going to be much closer than at any time since 2003.

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2017 @ 8:18am
            taylorman said | July 11th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

            Yes but since 2003 the elephant in the room is the absurd number of players that choose to ply their trade in the NH. If we had access to all our NH players no one would have a chance. SA and Oz would be much stronger.

            The NH also relies on SH coaching…heavily. So it’s a bit of a false dawn at the moment where the NH sides aren’t really comprable.

            Take 300 local pros out of the English scene for example, and what do you have.

            It’s also easy to see how things are changing with regards to opening the game up. You have do much SH influence in your rugby that that’s going to be inevitable.

            • July 11th 2017 @ 9:13am
              FunBus said | July 11th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

              Not sure how any of that counters the argument that English rugby is getting stronger and stronger.
              I thought the narrative from the SH was that the players heading north were after pensions with not much left to offer. Certainly, Piutau, Cruden and Luatua might make the wider AB squad, but none would be starters. SA might be marginally improved but Oz probably not.
              Certainly Gatland, Schmidt and Jones are providing excellent coaching but the top three clubs in England are coached by British coaches and virtually all the international assistant coaches are local. At the moment it seems to be working very well. The standard of the club game is going through the roof with all the top teams having a core of young English players and coaching is improving exponentially.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2017 @ 9:45am
                taylorman said | July 11th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

                Well if no the for the salaries there they’d certainly be fighting for places here and even if they werent AB quality they’d be creating a huge amount of competition.

                Guys like Smith, Nonu, Carter if here might be more tempted to continue their AB careers that year or two longer. Re the coaching you had all four countries coached by overseas, SH coaches last year and we have many in clubs so if your ‘top’ coaches are coaching club rugby and not internationally then they’re still a bit short of the grade.

                So while I agree the standard is improving the assistance towards it has been unsurpassed. While having greater numbers than anyone, England still lend heavily from overseas. That means paying lots of money outside the infrastructure unnecessarily so there’s clearly still the need to prop up the club scene.

              • July 11th 2017 @ 10:49am
                Colin N said | July 11th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                “so there’s clearly still the need to prop up the club scene.”

                Absolutely, but that’s because there are 12 Premiership teams. Difficult to get squads of 40 English-qualified players when you want to be successful in Europe and also be competitive during the Six Nations.

                At the moment, the balance is very good and I can’t think of an overseas player keeping out a talented English youngster.

                Re: the coaching, that’s a fair point. Development still needs to be made in that area but there are some bright British coaches coming through. Rob Baxter is considered by many to be the next England head coach after Jones goes and England’s two assistant coaches, Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard, are both astute operators.

              • July 11th 2017 @ 7:46pm
                ClarkeG said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

                If Piutau had remained in NZ and was still playing at the same level he would most certainly have been in hot contention for a start in the last test.

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2017 @ 9:48am
              taylorman said | July 11th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

              England particularly should be able to say no more imports, coaches or players, we build from within.

              But the greedy clubs are too impatient for that. They want sponsors and trophies now and currently they need to import that, or they wouldn’t do it.

              Every single imported player or coach is taking the place of a local one. That’s not the sign if a healthy infrastructure…yet anyway.

              • July 11th 2017 @ 2:45pm
                richard said | July 11th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                Taking playing/coaching talent from the SH works in the north’s favour.It adds to their talent pool,and weakens ours.Win – win for the north.And that is why it will stay that way.

              • July 11th 2017 @ 6:11pm
                FunBus said | July 11th 2017 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

                The ‘imports’ only become a problem if (like the EPL in football) they start to crowd out developing English talent. There’s absolutely no sign that this is happening; and I reckon the cautionary experience of football will prevent it happening. The rugby premiership clubs also get significant financial incentives to produce England internationals, so it’s very much in their interests to nurture English talent.

                Unless you’ve a sporting culture like NZ where virtually every promising athlete will have held a rugby ball as a kid at school, it’s a risk to be too insular looking. Rugby is a very minority sport in English schools, so the development pathways are crucial and, finally, a really good system is now in place.

                The ‘imports’ are improving not weakening England. As an example there’s a very promising openside called Underhill who had his debut on the Argentina tour. He’s 20 and been playing in Wales where he was at university. He’s moving to Bath next season. He’ll be mentored by Francois Louw and Toby Faletau (and Todd Blackadder), as will another 20 year old youngster Zach Mercer, who will also be a star. I’ll take some convincing that they won’t be better players, earlier, with that help.

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2017 @ 2:58pm
      WEST said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

      I don’t think Hansen or the All Blacks underestimate them, Hansen said this is going to be the best Lions in decades and the AB players knew this was going to be tough. The media and fans are a different story they expected the ABs to win 3-0.

      England spine is one thing, but England isn’t the Lions. The All Blacks will probably front up and turn up far more for a Test with England than a series with the Lions, where rankings and real credibility are on the line.

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2017 @ 3:34pm
      pformagg said | July 10th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

      The best from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland – vs the AB’s. Considering they won the 1st test, lost the 2nd by only 3 points (with 14men) and drew the last game in controversial style. I would say they did a great job

      The AB’s were not full strength, where the Lion were. I think the not having Crotty, B.Smith and Coles in the side, affected the outcome.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 3:40pm
        Tigranes said | July 10th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

        How many Lions players were injured – Im thinking guys like Manu Tuilagi and Billy Vunipola would have made the Lions squad?

        • July 10th 2017 @ 6:58pm
          wre01 said | July 10th 2017 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

          Spot on Tigranes
          Billy Vunipola was a massive loss and was a nailed on certainty for the 23, if not to start. I thought the NZ bench struggled to make the impact that the Lions bench did. Sinkler and Lawes were immense when they came on and Vunipola would have really hurt the AB’s with 25 to go. Best ball carrier in rugby in my view and 2nd best No.8 behind Read.
          And let’s not forget the Lions test side had 2 games (Canterbury and the Maori) to prepare for the first test.

          • July 10th 2017 @ 8:32pm
            Rugby Tragic said | July 10th 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

            Your Billy Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi, and up our Dane Coles, Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty… so who’s hand is the strongest then? Injuries always play a part either before or during a series.

            Yes I think Billy Vunipola would have added to the squad but Tuilagi has been injured, like forever … but his absence was well covered besides Jonathan Davies must of been close to the BIL man of the series …. did he make a mistake in any of the 3 tests???

            The All Blacks missed Dane Coles, and Ben Smith for their X factor and organisation skills respectively. I also think Bender was not right for the 1st test… he dropped high 3 balls, more than he drops in a season, perhaps something was wrong, it was not concussion perhaps vertigo when he looked skywards.

            We will never know which team would have prevailed if everyone was available but one telling stat was that in 240 mins of game time, the BIL’s only lead for 3 mins …

            • July 11th 2017 @ 7:59pm
              ClarkeG said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

              Actually I can’t figure out why that stat is telling at all. Although an interesting observation what does it really tell us.

              Happy to be told.

      • July 11th 2017 @ 11:51am
        ajg said | July 11th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

        Lions definitely werent full strength – Stuart Hogg (the scots fullback) was probably the front runner to be the fullback until his weird injury. he has been voted best player of the last few 6Ns. He is a dynamic and crazy attacking threat. wud love to have seen him play against the ABs and cant wait until the november tests to see how he goes

        also, billy vunipola wud probably also have been the no8

        and there is a more extensive list here of the players who had to drop out for various reasons:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_British_and_Irish_Lions_tour_to_New_Zealand#Lions

        • July 11th 2017 @ 8:21pm
          ClarkeG said | July 11th 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

          Don’t think I will buy that.

          Whereas Smith, Crotty, Coles were AB certainties and would have more than likely made a difference, I’m not sure any of those Lions players from the list, other than Vunipola, would have made an improvement on what played out.

          On Hogg – pre tour I was thinking that the test team would include both Hogg and Williams but as it played out they had a very accomplished and settled back three. Not sure Hogg would have changed anything there.

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