Sir Clive Woodward is ‘quietly confident’ that the Lions will be ‘smiling’ following Saturday’s first test against the All Blacks at Eden Park. Woodward says that an All Blacks loss could signal that his perceived ‘sea change’ occurring in international rugby toward Northern Hemisphere dominance is complete.
Woodward, who is flying to New Zealand to take up commentary duties, says that Warren Gatland has clearly got his preparation of the squad right, and sees the Lions only as slight underdogs against the All Blacks.
Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, the 2005 Lions head coach said that the current side’s ‘world-class forward pack’ would ‘ensure quality set-piece possession and win the collisions.’ Added to this, Woodward claimed that having a ‘world-class kicker behind that pack you always have a chance, and the Lions are likely to field two in Owen Farrell and Leigh Halfpenny.’
He also praised the Lions’ ‘physical and disciplined’ defence, noting that the team had only given up one try to the Crusaders and New Zealand Maori sides who were stacked with attacking talent in their respective backlines.
Woodward went on to claim that a loss by the number 1 side in the world would signal that the Northern Hemisphere had achieved dominance over the South, part of a so-called ‘sea change’ which had occurred since the 2015 World Cup, which was dominated by Southern Hemisphere teams. Woodward pointed to Scotland’s win over Australia and under strength England’s 2-0 win over Argentina as evidence of this shift in power. Woodward claimed that “Australia are declining sharply, Argentina standing still while South Africa have huge issues.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen may be doing the ‘quiet smiling’ in Auckland as Woodward’s prediction puts pressure on the tourists ahead of Saturday.
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