Gatland’s Lions don’t have the cattle, won’t have the chemistry

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    Warren Gatland’s 2017 British and Irish Lions side to tour New Zealand in June has met with virtual universal approval from the often vicious British rugby media.

    Robert Kitson, a rugby journalist I admire, summed the euphoria for The Guardian in an article titled: ‘Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart.

    The British cohort of journalists, though, often build up the chances of their teams pulling off famous victories only to rail relentlessly against them when they fail to win the trophies they were expected to win. Look at the viciousness launched against Stuart Lancaster when his England side failed to even make the finals in Rugby World Cup 2015.

    Gatland’s Lions are one of the more experienced sides this famous institution has ever sent abroad. The coach is the first back-to-back head coach. So there is something, perhaps, in the expectations of greatness for the side.

    The captain Sam Warburton is only the second player to lead the Lions on a second consecutive tour. The other double-captain was Martin Johnson, captain of the Lions in 1997 and 2001. So Gatland’s Lions have experience in the leadership positions, on and off the field.

    The Lions tour every four years to either Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Selection on a tour, generally, is the single highlight in the career of most British players. But two of the 41-man squad will be on their third tour. Fourteen of the players will be on their second.

    Wales captain Sam Warburton after loss to South Africa Rugby World Cup 2015

    The youngest player in the squad, at the age of 22, is Mario Itoje. Itoje, though, for all his relative youthfulness as a Test player, is the one player in the squad who has possibilities of greatness in his play.

    Gatland has rewarded England for its great run of victories since Eddie Jones took over as a coach in 2016 with 16 selections. Wales provides 12 tourists, Ireland 11 and Scotland 2.

    These numbers seem to be out of kilter with what is happening in British rugby.

    There is an over-loading of Welsh players, matched by an under-representation of Scottish players. Moreover, there are queries about whether too many players might be on one Lions tour too many – Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Ben Youngs, Dan Cole, Alun Wyn Jones, and Sam Warburton, in particular.

    Scotland, as any number of Scottish rugby writers have pointed out, defeated both Wales and Ireland in this year’s Six Nations tournament. They finished ahead of Wales on the points table. To have only two players in the squad has led to some understandable disquiet north of the border.

    Alasdair Reid, the respected rugby correspondent on The Scottish Times, made the case for four specific Scottish players who missed the cut: “Richie Gray, a towering lock who was back to his best (and better than he was when he was chosen for the Lions in 2013) in the later stages of the Six Nations … flanker Hamish Watson, outstanding in the tackle and on the ball … Greig Laidlaw, an outstanding leader and a world class goal-kicker … Finn Russell who was so much better than Dan Biggar when Scotland beat Wales at Murrayfield that it was embarrassing to watch.”

    All these players would have given Gatland’s Lions elements of brilliance (Gray, Watson and Russell) and tenaciousness (Laidlaw) that seem to be lacking in most of the actual selections.

    In all of the cases, though, a Welsh player could have been dropped to make way for the Scottish player: Alun Wyn-Jones, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar. And this is the reason, probably, why the Scottish players were not selected.

    Gregor Paul in The New Zealand Herald, in an article titled ‘Lions name team to tackle All Blacks,’ made this point about the seeming lack of flair in Gatland’s Lions: “It all looks good for the Lions, except for one missing piece perhaps – their squad lacks the creative, intuitive footballers with the skills and imagination to ignite their attacking game?

    “The midfield options look exceptionally dry: functional sorts who will bang up the middle and take a bit of tackling. Being direct is fine, but it is not enough in itself to really trouble the All Blacks.”

    The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has moved in quickly to identify the limited, “uncomplicated” Gatsball game plan that Gatland’s teams invariably play: “I’ve never seen him do anything else other than that. I guess we need to be prepared for what we normally get and prepare for something different as well … He’s done most of his coaching up north and has a particular style he likes which works for him up there using big ball carriers up front, big mid-fielders to carry.”

    Wales' head coach Warren Gatland

    Like Hansen, I think that if Gatland plays this Gatsball style that worked, admittedly, against the Wallabies in 2013, the All Blacks will monster the 2017 Lions.

    The Gatsball style worked in 2013 because the Lions forwards, particularly in the third Test at Sydney, were totally dominant in the scrums against a struggling Wallabies scrum. This is unlikely to happen in 2017 when the All Blacks set piece, scrums and lineouts, are particularly strong.

    There is no match-winner in the backs or the forwards in Gatland’s Lions side. And if the All Blacks blunt the set pieces of the Lions game, then the visitors are going to struggle to get points.

    I have watched a lot of European rugby recently on the various Fox Sports channels. The point that strikes me all the time is the slow pace of the rugby is, at all times. Even when teams are pressing for a victory with minutes remaining the game meanders and half backs stand over the ball waiting for their runners to amble into position.

    The time the ball is in play in Europe is up to 10 minutes fewer, I would guess, than it is in Super Rugby. You would have to think that the pace of the All Blacks game is going to run the Lions off their feet, especially as they are coming from an extremely tough and long season of hard-slog rugby.

    You look through the list of Gatland’s Lions and you see this general lack of real pace, in the backs and forwards, throughout the squad. Who are the runners who can clear out for a runaway try? Where is the forward who hits every ruck before all the other players?

    Sam Warburton is a case in point. He is like virtually all the British flankers, what Eddie Jones calls a “six-and-a-half.” He is not really quick enough to be a real seven and not big enough or strong enough in the lineouts, especially, to be a real No.6.

    I question, too, his leadership qualities.

    He does not automatically command, or should not automatically command, a place in the starting side as a No.7. Justin Tipuric and Sean O’Brien are better players.

    He failed, too, in the Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-final when his red card for a tip tackle early on in the match against France virtually killed off the strong chance that Wales had of making the final.

    All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

    And let us be blunt about this. If the Lions had another coach, someone who did not coach Wales, there is no way Warburton would be in the side, let alone be its captain.

    This gets us to the big problem with this Lions side – and virtually every other Lions side, with the exception of the 1971 British and Irish Lions side that won its series against the All Blacks, the only time this success has been achieved in New Zealand.

    That 1971 Lions side contained a number of Welsh players, JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, John Dawes, Barry John and Gareth Edwards who were once in a life-time Welsh players.

    On most other tours, the Welsh players have been notoriously bad travellers. Wales, for instance, has won only one Test against the home side when playing in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

    Wallabies vs Lions - Michael Hooper takes a hit up, to be met by Sam Warburton

    The tendency for the Welsh players on Lions tours is to form home-sick cliques. This tendency not to fit in, in contrast with Irish players, say, is accentuated in modern Lions tours with the enormous size of the playing squad.

    There have been problems, too, with the English players doing the same thing of forming disgruntled cliques, as Graham Henry found to his cost during the Lions tour of Australia in 2001.

    Brian Lochore, former All Black captain and coach, reckons that the key to beating the All Blacks is for the players in the Lions squad to form a cohesive unit: “Their biggest problem is working together. If they can make the side work well, then they will have a very good side. Too often they get here and they don’t work as well together as they should. It is never the quality, it is if they gel.”

    I reckon that Gatland could have helped the gelling process immeasurably if he had named Rory Best, the Irish hooker, as captain. Best, after all, has captained to Ireland to a victory over the All Blacks, something that Warburton has not done.

    Moreover, Ireland players learn how to get on with other players who they might, in other circumstances, tend not to like. The particular the Ireland rugby side is selected dictates this. When Ireland plays rugby, this is the only time in sport that the north and the south come together as a team.

    The best of the Lions captains have been Irishmen. Karl Mullen, a product of the Old Belvedere club in Dublin, with the 1950 Lions. Willie John McBride, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, in 1977.

    Rory Best, a hooker like Mullen, would have had an emollient effect on Gatland’s Lions and could have helped ensure that the gelling process worked for the team. This would have helped the Lions to come together as a team, forgetting their parochial differences, the way the Ireland team does when it take the field.

    In summary then, I make this fearless prediction. Warren Gatland’s Lions are doomed.

    They don’t have the cattle or the chemistry to pull off a series victory over an All Blacks side that has both these necessities.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (217)

    • April 21st 2017 @ 7:04am
      John said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Hhmmmmm.

      A lot to both like and dislike in this article. Itoje is a world class player and will shine on this tour. The Irish did pretty well against the All Blacks until they were manhandled. This side won’t be manhandled. I agree there are too many Welsh. I don’t think Watson is a better choice – neither big enough nor fast enough. Same with the Gray brothers.

      • Roar Guru

        April 21st 2017 @ 10:50am
        Jokerman said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        ‘Doomed’ Brilliant! Because they deserve a hiding don’t they?!?

        I’m always a little nervous with these big games. The unknown factor can keep you wondering. But great summary, Spiro and yes I agree.

        Hansen is such an astute reader and he’s already seeing and saying the right things. He keeps it simple but can unleash brilliants from there.

        It seems at this time the Lions will look to play it in a war attrition manner and keep it simple and execute perfectly; how Ireland played in Chicago. I just don’t think that will cut it. They need more because the All Blacks will match that, expect it, and blow them away with an epic moment of poetic brilliance where the game just GOES in flash usually 10 minutes either side of halftime or in the last 25.

        As long as the All Blacks can get up to speed with minimal playing time, they should take this 3-0. The first test could be close but the All Blacks at around 24-17. 32-21 for the second and a blowout for the third, 49-13.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 5:03pm
        P2R2 said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        Manhandled…??? Do explain this…many felt the ABs just played HARD AND DIRECT RUGBY …if the Irish and all of those who think like you….I repeat Tana’s quote: ..this isn’t tiddlywinks….

        • April 21st 2017 @ 7:28pm
          Bakkies said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

          Resorting to high shots is not playing hard. The Kiwis can dish it out but can’t take it when it happens to them.

          • April 22nd 2017 @ 3:24am
            Geoff said | April 22nd 2017 @ 3:24am | ! Report

            Can’t take it when dished out to them?

            You’ve got nothing to back that with do you?

            Now you’ve thought about it for a bit you realize that I’m sure.

            • April 28th 2017 @ 2:39am
              Jack Langan said | April 28th 2017 @ 2:39am | ! Report

          • April 22nd 2017 @ 8:41am
            ClarkeG said | April 22nd 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

            If you keep saying it often enough you might just believe it.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:59pm
        Noodles said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

        They should have a strong pack. Irish midfield and fullback. Not clear to me that they’ve got the halves but then again I am not sure the ABs are peaking in the halves just now. And I note that well aware of BBs super rugby form.

        • April 21st 2017 @ 8:56pm
          KiwiHaydn said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

          Interesting, especially when it’s likely to be the IRB World Player of the year teaming up with either the man Gatland himself described as the best player in the world less than a year ago, or the player that has usurped him.

    • April 21st 2017 @ 7:14am
      Ben said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      “Robert Kitson, a rugby journalist I admire, summed the euphoria for The Guardian in an article titled: ‘Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart.‘”

      …and Polynesian power……

      • April 21st 2017 @ 5:05pm
        P2R2 said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

        Yes….how did he manage to miss that obvious point….

    • Roar Guru

      April 21st 2017 @ 7:17am
      Nick Turnbull said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

      Good Morning Spiro,

      Any thoughts on the omission of Joe Launchbury? I thought his style of play would have ideal for denting the All Blacks?

      I agree that the selection of Hartley and Robshaw had the potential to divide the team however as you rightly point out the side has a touch too much Welshness about it.

      I also have concerns over the selection of Marler and Mako Vunipola as both have had issues in the past with their angles in the scrum. I’m sure NZ will look to exploit this. No Cian Healy?

      I would prefer a back three of Williams, North and Hogg and think there is enough size and pace to threaten if given space.

      Finally in 2013 the Lions faced an Australian side that had a raft of issues, they face the fiercest opponent on a rugby park this time around and I think it will get ugly for Lions.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:24am
        JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

        Why in earth would Robashaw divide the team? What nonsense.

        • Roar Guru

          April 21st 2017 @ 7:47am
          Nick Turnbull said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

          As a former England skipper, you don’t think he would have influence?

          • April 21st 2017 @ 8:13am
            Armchair sportsfan said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

            By all reports robshaw has beeen the ultimate team man within the England set-up after being stripped of the captaincy post RWC. I also think he comes across as a thoroughly decent chap every time I’ve seen him speak. So, I think it’s a bit unfair to suggest he might be divisive, when nothing he’s done seems to indicate he might be….

            • April 21st 2017 @ 8:41am
              Bakkies said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

              and been injured

            • Roar Guru

              April 21st 2017 @ 8:51am
              Nick Turnbull said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

              Noted, that is within the England camp. I think Robshaw is widely respected as a player and skipper akin to Will Carling who many thought would get the honours in 89, but Fin Calder got the gig for a reason, and turned out to be a great skipper of a very good Lions team.

              • April 21st 2017 @ 9:25am
                JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

                Excuse the early morning spelling.
                Robshaw is consistently underrated as a player, just ask Eddie Jones. I feel bad for the guy, he’s a good egg and should have been on the last Lions tour and deserves to be on this one IMO ahead of Moriarty.
                Gatland clearly doesn’t appreciate quiet achievers which is why he also didn’t select Launchbury, which seems to have unified all four nations in disbelief.

              • Roar Guru

                April 21st 2017 @ 9:45am
                Nick Turnbull said | April 21st 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

                I suggest not Jimmy, not because Robshaw is not a fine player, and tough, he simply does not appear to be of value to Gatland’s plan.

                If the Lions are to win they will need a skipper who will be first choice in their position and could play the whole 80 in my opinion. Personally I would have gone with Peter O’Mahoney as skipper.

              • Roar Guru

                April 21st 2017 @ 11:46am
                Rugby Fan said | April 21st 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

                Carling wasn’t a captaincy frontrunner in 1989. That was four years later when Hastings was chosen instead.

              • Roar Guru

                April 21st 2017 @ 12:22pm
                Nick Turnbull said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                My recollection is the boy-captain of England was well in the mix in 89 and more so in 93.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 9:19am
        dontcallmeshirley said | April 21st 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        At the end of the day Hartley and Robshaw just aren’t good enough players. Simples….ek!

        • April 21st 2017 @ 9:26am
          JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          Hartley I’d agree with, although he’s pretty solid but Robshaw is a very good player. England have really missed him this season.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm
            Pilferer said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            England only lost one game this season Jimmy so they didn’t miss him too much.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 2:33pm
              JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

              But they didn’t play that well, even though they were winning and I reckon he would have made a difference in the Ireland game too. Water under the bridge now.

    • April 21st 2017 @ 7:22am
      JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Typically churlish and unoriginal effort from Zavos with the usual unpleasant overtones.
      If that Hansen quote is accurate, it’s pretty disrespectful, although true tbf.
      It’s becoming increasingly hard to find a ‘humble Kiwi’ these days.
      All I’m hearing and reading is about the inate superiority of everything Kiwi and the ineptitude of the Lions, perhaps it has always been thus, but the Lions as a concept is seeming more and more anachronistic when the host country is so openly disrespectful to the tourists before they’ve even arrived, why bother?
      The Lions are a meal ticket for the local economy and god knows that New Zealand intends on bleeding any travelling fan dry.
      The simple answer for me sadly, is to stop Lions tours altogether, they just aren’t suitable in the professional era.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:39am
        taylorman said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        Well when you’ve won 45 straight tests at home it’s hard not to have that view. None of the side has won here and most have tried, several times.

        At the moment NO ONE can win here. It’s not about humility JimmyB. Little suggests a Lions win so the conversation is likely to ebb and flow in that regard.

        I actually agree with the view though I don’t normally agree with Spiros articles.

        For me Hansen’s words if true make this even more ominous for the Lions. He’s relaxed with what he sees, he knows Gatland inside out and the comments about the midfield for me are the most telling.

        If the play is crash and bash then the back three get relatively unused offensively, and that’s when the rot sets in. If all they’re doing is defending and chasing high balls they’ll lose confidence.

        I hope the Lions put up a fight but other than the jersey it’s still a bunch of players out of the 6 nations, all sides the ABs very rarely lose to.

        • April 21st 2017 @ 9:44am
          JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          Taylorman, the Lions (a scratch team) are playing the best team in the world at home, of course it’s going to be tough. A 3-0 score line is entirely plausible, if the Lions win a test they will have done brilliantly well, if somehow they managed to win the series, they’d rightly be lauded as legends.
          The Lions however are likely to be less than the sum of their parts, not aided by a coaching team lead by Gatland and Howley.
          What I find irking though is this blanket dismissal of the Lions players, for example that none of them would be in discussion for an ABs berth, they will struggle to beat a team of amateurs first up and they will be lucky to win a game on tour.
          Having confidence in the ABs is one thing (and justified), but all the other stuff is wilfully ignorant and breathtakingly arrogant at the same time.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 10:14am
            Riccardo said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            Gidday Jimmy.

            “The Lions however are likely to be less than the sum of their parts, not aided by a coaching team lead by Gatland and Howley.”

            A salient comment IMO.

            While Hansen’s opening jibe may be disrespectful I think he has a point and I’m surprised that the nous of Cotter, Jones and Schmidt is not touring, given the recent strides they have made. Gats has gone with what he knows rather than enhancing it and there are frankly, too many Welshmen getting on the plane.

            It’s not that the Lions players would or wouldn’t make an All Blacks side; as Spiro asserts the issues appear to be around leadership and not just Sam’s, cohesion especially in defense and combinations, the necessary spark on attack.

            I can see the Lions having the measure of the All Blacks at set-piece but I would respectfully suggest they will adapt better than the Lions and have a considerable advantage of not just being at home, but probably being ahead of those issues above before any kick-off.

            But the beauty of this game is that on the day the contest will prevail and its nuances, twists and turns could see the unexpected being the outcome.

            I disagree that it’s an institution that has done its dash. Like many here it’s a tour of such rarity it needs to remain cherished.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 1:05pm
              FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

              Riccardo, the Lions could have sent a side containing the reincarnations of Martin Johnson, Sean Fitzpatrick and John Eales, Serge Blanco, Christian Cullen, and David Campese and Spiro would have said they have no leadership or flair.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 10:15am
            ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            It is not ‘blanket dismissal” Jimmy although I think you would like to think so.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 6:34pm
              JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

              Look Clarke, this is the Internet mate, if we’re not allowed to exaggerate a little then I mean what’s the point?! 😉

              • April 21st 2017 @ 11:25pm
                ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 11:25pm | ! Report

                Fair enough I suppose but don’t you jolly well do it again.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 10:25am
            Jacko said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

            Jimmy what do you want NZers to say? They will thrash us? They are far superior to us? You say they are a SCRATCH team, and YOU say that they are “likely to be less than the sum of their parts, yet it is us who are supposidly claiming superiority YOU say that if they win 1 test they will have done very well and YOU say a 3-0 scoreline is entirely plausable.
            Then it IRKS you that others are saying the same thing……It appears to me that you agree with everybody else and it IRKS you…Good luck with both of your personallities. Hope you dont get so IRKED you get sick Jimmy as you may well miss the best series of rugby we have seen for a number of years.
            Also have a look at the real rugby fans on here and you wont find anyone saying 10 zip at all.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 10:33am
              ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

              And he agrees with what Hansen says and then is critical of him for saying it.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 12:02pm
              Ben said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

              Spot on Jacko

          • April 21st 2017 @ 11:38am
            Markie362 said | April 21st 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

            Let’s be honest if the lions had picked a team to really have a go .fast skilled backs to run back at the darkness.could of been awesome.maybe 3welsh players deserve to be there.we only get a lions tour every 12 years and we deserve to see a real contest.and please saying that the locals are just waiting to bleed ur tourists.were u in England for the world cup

            • April 21st 2017 @ 12:11pm
              FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

              Hogg, North, Williams, Watson, Daly and Joseph are as fast as any AB back, and quicker than a number of them. That doesn’t make them better, but this idea of lumbering, slow crash ball merchants is the usual Spiro ignorance and nonsense.

              There’s also a difference between England being generally expensive and deliberately inflating hotel rooms and everything else by 2 , 3, or 4 times the usual price to gouge visitors

              • April 22nd 2017 @ 10:59am
                Jibba Jabba said | April 22nd 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

                = globalisation 🙂

          • April 22nd 2017 @ 8:23am
            taylorman said | April 22nd 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

            Hinya Jimmy, firstly, this is the next part of the Lions conundrum. Teams just been named and you’re going to get an initial reaction, one from the NH where certain players have missed out, some even refusing to watch the series in some cases. Predictable, inevitable and understandable.

            The other is now the names are on paper SHers and in particular Kiwis are going to have their say after probably holding out while there is no side. So you get the mixture you’re getting here. Just sit back and watch that for a while without taking too much of it in. It’s a natural reaction.

            I think this will be why you’re getting a lot of negative comments about some of the players. Right now we are probably comparing head to heads and the Lions are coming up short, big time in some areas.

            In terms of a players ability Robshaw is a good international but we rate him on his ability to front the ABs. Generally he’s been average in the past, despite his efforts in the 6 N. There are few in this squad that has dominated his opposite to date, none on a regular basis. He’s far from Kaino’s standard and probably wouldn’t make the AB squad either.

            So it’s about potential. Guys like Sexton, Murray, OBrien, Farrell, Norths, Warburtons etc those we’ve met over the years and generally sent packing, aren’t going to bring much new to their games other than we get them all in the same series. That’s where the gains could be so Gatlands ability to gel the side is critical.

            It’s the Vunipola’s, Te’os, Itoje, Joseph types that could give this side the spice it needs to compete and that’s largely because we don’t know them.

            The other part of our confidence comes from what is currently a very good Super rugby year across all five teams, who between them have only lost one match to an overseas side.

            The depth in most positions, the style of rugby being played and in particular the form of Barrett, who if you saw the last two or three rounds is completely justifying his World player of the year status. If he’s tearing our own sides to shreds I hate to think what he’s going to do against the Lions.

            In 2005 the Lions faced Carter at his best. This year they may face someone even better.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:41am
        Ben said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

        Take it you wont be watching then.
        Disrepectful you say!
        Ever read the British tabloids writing about the ABs before they tour?
        The Lions tours are brilliant and extremely popular with British and all touring countrys fans.
        You would be in a tiny minority who think its an anachronism.
        The only anachronistic tours to NZ are by the royal family.

        This Lions team will be far better
        than Woodwards woeful rabble of 2005.
        That team would be one of the worst Lions team to NZ along with the 1966 mob and just behind the 1983 lot.
        I think not picking Haskell is a mistake. Hes got size power and mongrel and has played a season in NZ.
        I hope this winter isnt wet like the 1977 tour. We’ve had a wet windy summer and a couple recent cyclones flooding NZ so hope the winter is dry.
        Cant wait. Couldnt get tickets for the tests but have got them for the Maoris game.
        Pity you wont be watching JimmyB…gona miss 3 AB hakas and a different NZ Maoris haka…and i know how much you love the haka. ?

        • April 21st 2017 @ 10:12am
          JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

          Ben, I’ll certainly try and watch, although not having Foxtel and living in a rugby wilderness that is Adelaide, I’m not counting my chickens.
          I’ve read many British papers before the ABs tour, being that I’m British, but admittedly probably not as many as the average Kiwi, who appears to forensically dissect the British press for any negative remark about the ABs, or is it that the NZ media force feed these slights down the collective Kiwi throat and ignore the vast majority of positive articles, who knows?
          The Lions tours are popular, you’re right, but not as popular as they once were. There are habitual Lions tourists and good luck to them, but my understanding is that the Lions fans who went to Australia last time felt pretty exploited, this tour promises to be as bad if not worse on that front.
          I don’t think that I’m not in a tiny minority of people who think that a Lions tour is anachronistic actually. If you visit British rugby forums, you will see that there are plenty of people from all 4 nations who feel the same way, also plenty of British rugby fans will obviously wish the Lions well, but will be more concerned with their own countries tours. I think that you’ll find the average Scottish rugby fan will have very little interest in this Lions tour and will be far more focussed on Scotland instead.
          Why do you think that I’ve got a problem with the Haka?

          • Roar Guru

            April 21st 2017 @ 11:55am
            Diggercane said | April 21st 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            ‘or is it that the NZ media force feed these slights down the collective Kiwi throat and ignore the vast majority of positive articles, who knows?’

            Couldn’t agree more here more Jimmy, the majority of what you see here is based around the inflammatory.

            As an example, Murray Kinsella is one of my favourite writers/analysts from up North, I cannot recall him ever having a negative thing to say and I imagine there would be plenty of others who are more than fair and reasonable.

            • Roar Guru

              April 21st 2017 @ 12:20pm
              Poth Ale said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

              Murray Kinsella isn’t British, Digger.

              And he writes for an Irish website, not a mainstream British newspaper. That makes a difference.

              Last year, he took time out to visit New Zealand and tour various clubs and places to paint a picture of NZ rugby through his eyes and those of Irish players currently playing for teams in New Zealand.

              His analysis and writing is similar to Nic Bishop of this parish.

              • Roar Guru

                April 21st 2017 @ 12:23pm
                Diggercane said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

                An oversight on my part Pot, apologies but in my defence I did say from up north there 😉

                Nic Bishop is British so my point stands I reckon 🙂 Plenty of good ones.

              • Roar Guru

                April 22nd 2017 @ 3:51am
                Poth Ale said | April 22nd 2017 @ 3:51am | ! Report

                Agree absolutely.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 2:20pm
              ScottD said | April 21st 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

              Digger et al
              I was in France for the French world cup and then went to England for the two semis. England had just beaten the Wallabies in the QF. The reporting on that was a disgrace (and btw I am a Kiwi although I live in Perth).

              I have never seen in Australia or NZ reporters or officials making the sort of disrespectful comments that I saw in the England press that week regarding both the Wallabies and Australian rugby in general. It was an utter disgrace. I don’t think the NZ or Aussie press is anywhere close to being at that low level.

              • April 21st 2017 @ 4:21pm
                Jacko said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

                Unfortunately Scott the press…from almost every country are not interested in a story unless they can somehow add a drama or accusation into it. Most fans are pretty good when it comes to knowing the difference between good and bad journo’s but of course we all will drag a bit of a article to prove our own points. I am hoping that one day we just have stories written with nothing but facts…They tell me Im dreaming..

              • April 21st 2017 @ 5:38pm
                FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                ‘I was in France for the French world cup and then went to England for the two semis. England had just beaten the Wallabies in the QF. The reporting on that was a disgrace (and btw I am a Kiwi although I live in Perth).’

                There was a specific reason for that, Scott. John O’Neil the President of the ARU, no less, had spent the entire build-up to the QF in Marseilles telling everyone who’d listen how much he and the world hated the English; how the result was a foregone conclusion; and who they were going to play in the SF. The coverage by the Aussie press in the build-up was simply a competition to see who could win in the taking the mickey out of England – ‘the worst team ever to reach a RWC QF’. The debate was how many tries the Aussies were going to score.
                Obviously, news of this got back to England – the reaction when the unbelievable hubris of the Aussies was punctured can, I would argue, be forgiven.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:46am
        Fullback48 said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Most of the British journalists ( Stephen Jones, John Reason, Mark Reason to name a few ) have been writing absolute “in the cutter” rubbish about the All Blacks for the last 30 years. But that is OK according to you.

        • April 21st 2017 @ 10:16am
          JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          MOST of the British journalists have been lauding the ABs for the last 30 years.
          Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t/didn’t the Reason’s write for NZ publications? If so, more fool you lot for employing them.
          ‘But that is OK according to you.’ Err no, it’s not, but thanks for trying to put words into my mouth.
          All in all mate, that’s a pretty average post.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 4:28pm
            Jacko said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

            yeah Jimmy we employ English journo’s to put crap on us constantly..It keeps us on edge so that we only become complacent every tenth test..lol….If you seriously believe that no English journo has attacked the ABs wrongly then you are deluded…And so are you…( both of your personalities )

        • April 21st 2017 @ 12:27pm
          FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

          One of the great myths is this ‘hard time’ that the ABs get when they tour the UK. The vast majority of articles from a press about 10 times the size of the Kiwi press are fawning. Jones will write one article, or usually only a paragraph displaying that he doesn’t particularly like the way the ABs go about their business and the NZ press clutch their pearls and throw a wobbly.
          Visiting AB teams are treated like the Pope compared to, for example, how visiting English teams are treated by the press down under.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 4:29pm
            Jacko said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

            Funbus wipe your chin

            • April 21st 2017 @ 4:42pm
              FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              Brilliant point, well made Jacko. Who could possibly argue with all that evidence and penetrating argument.

              • April 21st 2017 @ 4:51pm
                Jacko said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

                leave penetrating out of it Jimmy. Thats going too far if you mean receiving…Giving however???? lol

              • April 21st 2017 @ 6:02pm
                ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

                And the evidence is just bubbling all over your post.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 10:30am
        ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        True but disrespectful Jimmy?

        What would you like him to say that you would not find disrespectful.

        It’s becoming increasingly hard to find a jimmy that is not hypersensitive.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 11:10am
        Tiger said | April 21st 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        Read all of the above twice over JimmyB, take a deep breath, relax and start getting excited about the tour! Two great teams coming together, great occasion. The Lions have a real chance of knocking off the Mighty AB’s, and the Mighty AB’s will be trying to keep the status quo as is, it’s going to be epic!

        I thought Gatlin would have gone with Best. Plays his rugby hard, good team man, leadership, and a real warrior. He pushes the officials without crossing the line of respect. Sam for me hasn’t been playing particularly well over the last couple of seasons and is to much of a state department type.

        I’m with Spiro, I expect a blackwash, but rugby games are won on the paddock.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 12:18pm
        FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        Didn’t really expect much else from Spiro other than ignorance and bile, and got the usual historical howler (from a so-called historian of the game).

        To mention Willie John McBride and not mention the 1974 Lions, possibly the greatest team ever put together anywhere, by anybody, is amazing.

        • April 21st 2017 @ 4:38pm
          Jacko said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

          Funbus you are fast becoming the English Spiro then arnt you…Nothing but ignorance and bile…Instead of looking to be insulted by some random word or the way a journo has said something, just enjoy the banter we will have over the next 6 weeks before the tour even starts. And lets face it…Were the 74 Lions so good? or perhaps the 74 ABs wernt that great…I certainly do not believe the 74 lions would compete with the ABs of today and infact the 74 Lions would struggle to beat any of the top 10 countries of today… Best side ever assembled???… I disagree…And so would a few NZ and SA supporters…Great side ? …Spot on.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 4:54pm
            FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

            ‘Were the 74 Lions so good? or perhaps the 74 ABs wernt that great…I certainly do not believe the 74 lions would compete with the ABs of today and infact the 74 Lions would struggle to beat any of the top 10 countries of today…’

            I’d be able to take you a bit more seriously, Jacko, if you knew that the 1974 Lions toured South Africa not NZ. They played 22 matches and won 21. In the last match of the tour (the fourth test) they drew because the SA ref disallowed a clear Lions try in the last minute. They humiliated the South Africans at a time that the South Africans were consistently beating the ABs, and everyone else as well, and it wasn’t for another 20 years that the ABs managed to win a series in SA (2-1).

            Your point about today’s teams beating amateurs of 43 years ago and, therefore, this telling you who was ‘best’ is one of the stupidest points you’ve made – and that’s up against some pretty stiff competition.

            • April 21st 2017 @ 5:58pm
              Stewartie said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

              Be fair, it would be a big shout for those ’74 Lions to take on today’s teams – they are in their 70s now

            • April 21st 2017 @ 6:26pm
              ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

              I’m not so sure that non try was as clear cut as you say it was. In fact I would say it was not clear at all.

              Not saying it was not a try – just saying it was not clear that it was a try.

              If we had the TMO in 1974 it is quite likely that a try would not have been awarded.

              • April 21st 2017 @ 8:30pm
                FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:30pm | ! Report

                You may be right about today, ClarkeG, but in those days that would normally be given as a try every day of the week. It doesn’t matter now, just really saying how close those Lions came to a remarkable played 22 won 22 including 4 tests in South Africa against the Boks at the peak of their dominance.

              • April 22nd 2017 @ 8:37am
                ClarkeG said | April 22nd 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

                Yes you are right – it doesn’t matter but I was just passing comment on the non try that you raised.

                I don’t wish to lessen the achievements of the 1974 Lions in any way.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 3:32pm
        Coconut said | April 21st 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

        JimmyB – you’re like the broken record you accuse Kiwis of being. Did you not read the recent story about a kiwi who opened up his house to the Lions supporters, and then started a website to encourage others. Apparently the response has been very good. I am talking about free accommodation mate – but hey, don’t let me ruin your narrative.

      • Roar Guru

        April 21st 2017 @ 4:12pm
        Jokerman said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

        It’s okay Jimmy, have some beersies mate!!

        I know some of those All Black endings have been painful for you…but you really have to accept it. Alternatively reading something like the Twilight series may give you an ending that is more satisfactory for you. 🙂

        • April 21st 2017 @ 4:58pm
          FunBus said | April 21st 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

          ‘I know some of those All Black endings have been painful for you…but you really have to accept it.’

          I think JimmyB will be OK, Jokerman. I might be wrong, but I suspect his self-esteem and sense of worth in himself and his country probably isn’t wrapped up in whether the rugby team(s) he supports win or not.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 5:33pm
            rebel said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

            I suspect some people just like to be perpetually outraged, condemning the same type of behaviour they then go on to defend.
            Lighten up everyone, it’s a Lion’s tour.

          • Roar Guru

            April 21st 2017 @ 5:36pm
            Jokerman said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

            Funbus you nearly wrapped that up and with a bow….but not quite!! It’s amazing how some can stumble upon the truth without even knowing, almost like a semi-conscious walking sleep and the heart just takes you to the truth…with a step and in your case a few words on the keyboard.

            So…correctly: Jimmy’s self-esteem is at an imbalance. Volatile and fluctuates most of the time below the required bar. That low level then projects out to the success of the All Blacks; he has a disdain towards qualities he believes he doesn’t have. This is mainly unconscious to him. When the All Black continue to win, you could say it feeds his angst. It’s circular but by definition not the creator of his esteem issues but certainly playing with it and adding to his problems.

            But you almost said what I stated…”I might be wrong” you said…just a moment when the ego leaves.

          • April 21st 2017 @ 6:33pm
            ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

            Lots of fun on your bus I suspect.

            • Roar Guru

              April 21st 2017 @ 7:32pm
              Jokerman said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

              Yeah got to have the fun. Chase it then have it…

              but never leave or lose the peace.

        • April 21st 2017 @ 8:17pm
          JimmyB said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          Jokerman, I’ve taken your advice and am enjoying some beersies.

          • Roar Guru

            April 21st 2017 @ 8:32pm
            Jokerman said | April 21st 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

            Haha! Sweet, well done, good to chill. 🙂

      • April 21st 2017 @ 7:02pm
        Simoc said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

        Well isn’t Gatland an exKiwi who has had the Welsh playing the most boring rugby imaginable. Gatland is the weak link in this Lions line-up. So predictable.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 10:29pm
        Zero Gain said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

        Hansen leads the way, the rest of the Kiwi supporters follow. Just read the justifications for the gormless comments. Could he have less charisma and charm? You would think with all that success he would develop at least a little.

        • April 22nd 2017 @ 8:37am
          taylorman said | April 22nd 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

          You mean in the glorious way Cheika has, or before him McKenzie? Talk about gorm…

        • April 22nd 2017 @ 8:53am
          ClarkeG said | April 22nd 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          Could he have less charisma and charm?

          Some others might quite possibly …like bordering on zero.

          I still highly recommend the cold flannel.

    • April 21st 2017 @ 7:35am
      TonyP said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      S
      Did you not see the Cacutta Cup match
      That is why there are no Scots in the squad

      You may also recall your comment about “thuggish” England in your report of the Irish game
      That was nothing compared to the ABs in their second Irish match

      Be assured that this will not work against these Lions!

      Best from the NH

      • April 21st 2017 @ 10:35am
        ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        And the Glasgow v Saracens Euro 1/4 F.

      • April 21st 2017 @ 5:28pm
        Scott the Aussie said | April 21st 2017 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

        So Scotland are damned on the back of one match, and England are not?? Not only that, but Scotland thrashed Wales and yet 11 Welsh get to go versus 2 Scots? What gives? The Lions need to be scoring tries in NZ to have a hope in hell of winning any Test, yet it appears Warrenball is to be employed.

        • April 21st 2017 @ 6:47pm
          ClarkeG said | April 21st 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

          Not one match necessarily but total capitulation in one match is probably more the point.

          Which match is the one Eng should be damned on?

          “The Lions need to be scoring tries in NZ …” you say. None of the Scottish players not selected will enhance that.

          Yes we can argue that one or two more Scots might have made the team but it makes no difference. The only Scottish player that might make a significant difference attack wise is Hogg and he is there although not guaranteed a test spot.

          • April 22nd 2017 @ 8:40am
            taylorman said | April 22nd 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

            And I don’t think he will. He had a good 6N, but he did so because of what the opposition allowed. He won’t get the room here, and he isn’t physical enough. Despite his lean appearance, Williams is much more direct and can break tackles.

            But knowing Gatland, he’ll find a way to shuffle Halfpenny in there by strategically placing him in better positions pre test.

    • April 21st 2017 @ 7:43am
      mania said | April 21st 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      big call. I agree with a lot of your article
      I reckon they do have the cattle but I fully agree that they don’t have the camaraderie, team spirit to be effective.
      however it will all depend on what happens on tour. they still have a chance to gel its just gotta be done on the road.

      I’ve played in rep teams where I just didn’t get on with the other team members. our club was hated for winning the finals and that animosity leaked over to the rep side. tbh it worked and we won more than we lost but we used that animosity at training and that transferred onto the field . we’d smash the other club members as training was a golden opportunity to have all the teams we hated on the field at once. we hit them harder at training than they got hit on the field.
      it was an ugly tour but by the end of it we somehow became a really tight team. there was no love but there was respect

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