Gatland’s 37 Lions and their impossible mission

Norris Woodbine Roar Rookie

By Norris Woodbine, Norris Woodbine is a Roar Rookie

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    British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is about to name a 37-man squad charged with touring New Zealand in June and beating the All Blacks in a three-Test series. History and much more is against them.

    This side will be called upon to play ten matches in five weeks, with the five Super Rugby franchises and New Zealand Maori on the list of opponents.

    » British and Irish Lions
    » Lions vs All Blacks fixtures
    » Lions squad
    » British & Irish Lions TV guide

    They commence the tour against the Provincial Barbarians, which will include some real up-and-coming players, possibly the future of New Zealand rugby.

    The first thing that surprises me about this tour is the 37 players, that is just two playing 15s and seven reserves, and is nowhere near enough – injuries are going to take a toll for certain. Fatigue will be an immense factor as their opponents will all play the game at a pace few Northern Hemisphere players will be used to.

    Unless the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Hurricanes are severely depleted by All Blacks duty, they will all be favoured by their fans to produce serious opposition for the tourists.

    The New Zealand Maori will be formidable opponents, all Kiwis know the heart and commitment they will take to the field. The contact will at times be brutal, while the passion will mount following a Haka that will produce a crowd atmosphere second to none.

    Some will say after this introduction to New Zealand rugby the Lions will be battle-hardened come the Test matches against the All Blacks, who will not have had the opportunity to play together and will be somewhat stale.

    But the home side could well be facing a third-string Lions by the time these Tests roll around. The tourists will have been beaten up and if they have suffered losses, morale will be low.

    Gatland is a New Zealander, I remember him playing club rugby at Murphy’s Field in Taupiri in club days. He was a hard-nosed front-row forward and has a good coaching record, but this tour seems to be a bridge too far for any team.

    While I am sure the players selected will be the best available, and will be looking forward to an opportunity of a lifetime in beating the All Blacks in their own backyard, I see a different outcome.

    The New Zealand public will expect their teams to dish out much pain and anguish, and send the tourists back to the Northern Hemisphere with their tails well and truly between their legs.

    The NZRFU will however ultimately reap the rewards, as the turnstiles are sure wrack up huge spectator numbers and TV royalties.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • April 19th 2017 @ 2:46am
      Chaz said | April 19th 2017 @ 2:46am | ! Report

      It’s the hope that kills you.
      See that the knives are already out with much gnashing of teeth about the leaked list of those not going- really hope this is short lived, in contrast to 2013, when the reaction to BOD being dropped was embarrassing, even before the result of the third Test.

      Biggest disappointment is the lack of preparation time for what is the hardest challenge in rugby, arguably tougher than winning the RWC, when most teams have 6 weeks in camp beforehand to further enhance their existing familiarity.

      • April 19th 2017 @ 4:56am
        Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:56am | ! Report

        Chaz, in what way was ‘ the reaction to BOD being dropped ….embarrassing”?

        • Roar Guru

          April 19th 2017 @ 10:28am
          taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          Because the BOD lovers all accused Gatland of heracy, something he continued to milk forever… as he does.

          • Roar Guru

            April 19th 2017 @ 10:40am
            Poth Ale said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

            Think that’s more in your head, T’man, than in his. You have an anti-Bod fetish. 🙂

            • April 19th 2017 @ 12:31pm
              taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

              Yes for sure, wonder if he’s leading a tour out here? good chance to reminisce I guess…

            • April 19th 2017 @ 4:38pm
              StevieB said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

              Pot hale, BOD is a massive whinger, there’s no denying that, he did carry on a bit after that game even though it was proved the right decision, his anti anything NZ is plain to see, couple of months back when he was saying on twitter things like rugby was all NZ had when the Olympics had recently finished with NZ getting 18 medals and Ireland getting 2 silvers I think???

              • April 19th 2017 @ 7:01pm
                Stewartie said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

                StevieB, when did you last have a shoulder reconstruction as a result of opposition foul play, in the first minute of a 3 Test series, as captain of the most important team you’ll ever play for?
                How did you cope with it ?

              • Roar Guru

                April 19th 2017 @ 7:23pm
                Poth Ale said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

                Wheteas still getting in a tizz over a tweet to some NZ fans that is still brought up months later is not whinging, right? ?

              • April 20th 2017 @ 11:59pm
                Henry Honey Balls said | April 20th 2017 @ 11:59pm | ! Report

                Bod was right at the time to question the decision. He was the most obvious choice for captain and Gatland had even told him that after Warburton he was next in line. AWJ hadn’t captained Wales for about 5 years at the time and was very inexperienced as captain. Gatland handled it badly.

                Gatland has selected Davies again despite the fact that Davies is desperately off form and there are better options in Ringrose and Dunbarr for example. Why doesnt the form argument apply now?

                You have to expect that Gatland will favour some players he is familiar with over others but Wales having 12 players selected when they came 2nd last in the 6 nations, had a very poor November series and unsucessful summer tour to NZ reveals a little more bias than sense in my opinion even if it was a very competitive 6 nations this year.

                The anti-Bod sentiment still lingers in NZ it seems.

    • April 19th 2017 @ 3:24am
      taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 3:24am | ! Report

      Re the Super squads only Blues and Crusaders get access to their ABs so these could be somewhat lopsided results, the Highlanders for example will miss the ABs more than most.

      Re the NZ Maori side I think the Lions will win fairly comfortably if they’re injury free by that stage, one because it’s placed as an ideal test rehearsal, and secondly because like the Lions, it’s a put together side, less any squad ABs, at even shorter notice.

      I think this will be the Lions best result.

      The toughest matches are the five Super sides, Blues and Saders leading there due to the ABs, and the three tests. The rest typically usually fall to Lions sides and I think will again this time.

      In the U.K. we’re about to face the next phase of the standard Lions fare, squad selection and the inevitable fan fallout, doom and gloom, anarchy, calls of calling to tour off…love it.

      Best thing about Lions tours is the 30,000 odd fans that come out…best rugby supporters on the planet…can’t wait!

      • April 19th 2017 @ 9:27am
        Old Bugger said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report


        Then we, as in the rest of NZ, will all be relying upon the Blues and Saders, to give their visitors, the usual welcome touch-up afforded to many visiting sides of the past, before they venture onwards, to meet those other NZ sides without, their ABs.

        Perhaps, reminiscent of the Wales v Chiefs midweek match last year where the locals, were minus their ABs but, who would’ve thought they were aye….?? We have to remember, the Chiefs match is the Tuesday before the 1st test so one would imagine, that the BILs will also be without, their test players.

        This will be a cracking game and I’m so looking forward, to being there. Oh btw, I agree with your view of the Maori game – the BILs will no doubt, be running their best side as a final dress-rehearsal for the 1st test, the following weekend.

        • Roar Guru

          April 19th 2017 @ 10:29am
          taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          Yes Blues will be out by then so will have targeted this for weeks.

          Aint gonna be pretty!?

          • April 19th 2017 @ 5:03pm
            Rugby Tragic said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

            Ain’t gonna be pretty? …. Oh TM, Yes it is 🙁

    • April 19th 2017 @ 5:40am
      Exile in Oz said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:40am | ! Report

      It’ll be interesting to see how the Lions are managed.
      2 games a week
      23 players used per game
      Will there be a first choice 23 from which 8 are used sparingly as reserves for the second choice 15? Will there be two groups of 15 with shared reserves? Will there not be a first choice team with selection based on who is least tired?
      My thoughts are that the first choice 23 would give the best chance of test victory. It would however come at the expense of the ‘mid week’ team.
      Any way you look at it though ​some players will be backing up for 2 games a week for a number of weeks. All of which occurs at the end of a long season.
      Good luck to them.
      Go The Blackness!

    • April 19th 2017 @ 8:14am
      JimmyB said | April 19th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      ‘While I’m sure that the players selected will be the best available…’
      Mmmh, I’m presuming that you haven’t seen the leaked squads doing the rounds.

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2017 @ 10:30am
        taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        Yes have seen them. Already some odd ones. No Joseph?


        • April 19th 2017 @ 2:57pm
          JimmyB said | April 19th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

          Yep, inexplicable if true.

    • Roar Guru

      April 19th 2017 @ 9:03am
      Atawhai Drive said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      “Suicidal itinerary” has already become a cliché in the context of this year’s Lions tour, but it’s a cliché with the ring of truth.

      The Lions will have just one relatively “easy” game, the opener against the Barbarians, a team comprising provincial players _ not least Peter Rowe, who plays for Wanganui in the nominally amateur Heartland Championship.

      But then the going gets tough.

      For the first time on a tour of New Zealand, the Lions will play the Super Rugby franchises rather than NPC provinces. Not all of the franchises will have their All Blacks available, but nor will they be “B” teams.

      Toss in three Tests and a game against NZ Maori, and this shapes as a tour that will sort the men from the boys, to resort to another cliché.

      The 2017 Lions will break with tradition in other ways. For the first time in a Lions tour of New Zealand, and possibly anywhere, one city will host more than one Test. The first and third Tests will be played in Auckland.

      For the first time on a Lions tour of New Zealand, no Tests will be played in the South Island. Wellington gets the third Test, Christchurch and Dunedin get nothing. To this former South Islander, it’s an outrage! As is the fact that just two of the 10 matches are scheduled for the South Island.

      Six of the 10 matches are either in Auckland (first and third Tests, the Blues) or a comfortable drive away from Auckland (Whangarei, Hamilton and Rotorua). I wonder if the Lions will set up a permanent base in or near Auckland and only fly south when it’s absolutely necessary.

      Injuries are inevitable and at first glance, 37 players might not be enough. But replacements can be flown in at short notice. On past tours, replacement players initially overlooked for the touring squad have made the most of their belated opportunities. Bill Beaumont on the 1977 tour of New Zealand is one example.

      My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that the Lions will win no more than half their matches, and won’t win a Test. But I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2017 @ 10:32am
        taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        They dont really want to set up in Auckland, it will swallow them.

        Pure crowd capacity rules these days.

      • April 19th 2017 @ 5:08pm
        Rugby Tragic said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:08pm | ! Report

        AD, outrageous it might be but you would be aware the reason for the lack of tests in the SI is due to ground capacity. Christchurch would surely have been awarded a test if it not for the earthquake disaster of Feb 2011.

        NZRU is making hay while the sun shines so greater tickets sales have ‘justified’ the 1st and 3rd Tests at Eden Park.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 5:56pm
          Jacko said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

          RT Feb 2011 is a long long time ago and Dunedin has a decent stadium too…

          • April 19th 2017 @ 7:48pm
            Council said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

            The Glasshouse is probably the best stadium in the country.

            Just not big enough.

            • April 19th 2017 @ 7:52pm
              AndyS said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

              They went with The Glasshouse? I was sure they’d go with The House of Pane…

    • April 19th 2017 @ 9:32am
      nmpcart said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

      I’m really looking forward to this series. Can’t wait to see how the Lions cope with some of the performances I expect from the likes of the Barrett brothers for the Hurricanes and some of the skills that can come from the Chiefs at times. The Maori game is usually a really good one.

      It must be extremely difficult to pick the Lions squad and trying to decide whether players returning from injury are ready. The suggestion seems to be that Warburton from Wales is going to be captain again. I understand that Gatland has a good working relationship with him but I’m not sure that he still has what it takes and whether he can remain injury free on tour, given that he is currently out injured. Not sure who would be suitable as captain but to me the Lions provide the opportunity to take players with skill who don’t necessarily get to shine in teams that are underpowered, like Scotland, and give them the platform to perform surrounded by strong players. The #10 for Scotland comes to mind here. I’m sure overall that there will be a lot of disappointment and finger pointing by supporters of various countries when they don’t get the players they think deserve it, much like any test selection really.

      • April 19th 2017 @ 10:02am
        JimmyB said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        There doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of finger pointing at this stage, it’s mostly bemusement and incredulity.
        Gatland appears to have decided to approach this tour in a formulaic way, picking players that he knows personally, existing partnerships and those he believes capable of playing Warrenball.
        Whilst I understand his thinking, it’s pretty hard to support. The ethos of picking the best available and then moulding them into a team is surely what the Lions is all about.
        At this stage Gatland has managed to unite 4 nations, but probably not in the way that he’d hoped.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 12:46pm
          taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

          He’ll really have to double up on Barrett JimmyB, the guys even making our own sides look really silly……annoying little s(^(&%$t!.

          The way hes playing now he could put the Lions to sleep on his own, if you get my meaning. They just cannot afford to give him space or he’ll use that talent around him to the max…

        • April 19th 2017 @ 1:13pm
          Neil Back said | April 19th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          Hang fire Jimmy. No squad selected yet.

          Acid test for me will be Jamie Roberts. If he appears on the squad list, I won’t bother studying the rest of it.

          • April 19th 2017 @ 1:32pm
            JimmyB said | April 19th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

            Fair point Neil, although the amount of reputable sources naming the squad would suggest to me that the one that’s out there is pretty accurate ie the one with Roberts in it.
            I suspect that Geech took one for the team so to speak in naming the players he ‘thought’ we’re going to tour on the weekend, making himself look rather silly in the process.

            Taylorman, regarding Barrett, I would think a well timed spear tackle in the first few minutes of the first test should take care of him. 😉

            • April 19th 2017 @ 2:22pm
              taylorman said | April 19th 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

              Now you’re on to it…works for us!?

              • April 19th 2017 @ 5:06pm
                Jacko said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

                But would he whinge for the next 12 years? Cruden is a pretty good replacement and Sopounga aint bad…Geez put Jordie in there…Its only the Lions

          • April 19th 2017 @ 7:27pm
            Stewartie said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

            I think plenty of us feel that way Neil.
            It will be amusing to observe his future denials of ‘warrenball’ as a concept.
            Does Charles Kent still have a pair of boots ?

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