In three days we will get our first glimpse of the British and Irish Lions for 2017. Warren Gatland has been tasked with delivering a second test series victory for the famous tourists but as difficult as the tour of Australia was four years ago, the trip to New Zealand poses an whole new level of test rugby.
Injury concerns aside for the Lions boss, Gatland will have the luxury of selecting a 37-man panel that will rank among the most formidable assembled in many a tour. The things is, it will need to be.
Looking back through the storied history of the Lions, there is a statistic that if you are that way inclined, might suggest the tourists are in for a torrid time when they embark on their ten match tour next month.
When the Lions arrive on the soil of the double-defending world champions, it will the 12th time the two sides engaged in a series of test rugby since the inaugural tour of 1888. In that year no actual test matches took place between the Lions and the host nations of New Zealand and Australia.
When the Lions did finally face the All Blacks in 1904, the tourists went down 3-9 to their hosts. Since then the Lions have faced New Zealand another 37 times, recording three draws and only five victories. Doing the painful maths, that’s a whopping 30 defeats, or to cast it another uncomfortable light, a 13% win rate.
Since the Lions only test series victory over their hosts in 1971, the Lions have only secured two wins in 14 tests. This is despite being able to boast some of the northern hemisphere’s most accomplished and decorated professionals.
From Gavin Hastings to Brian O’Driscoll, the All Blacks have swept aside the challenge of the tourist with their ever efficient conveyor belt of talent.
Even now, as Warren Gatland plots the downfall of their hosts, fans might wonder just how they can engineer a series victory. The All Blacks have only lost once in their last 22 tests, a somewhat surprising loss to Ireland in Chicago which ended their incredible 18 games unbeaten streak.
So before we all throw our hands up in despair and give up before the Lions squad is even announced, let’s remember that Ireland did beat a New Zealand side that was close to full strength as injuries would allow.
Additional to this, England have enjoyed their own incredible 18 game winning streak since 2015 and many of these Red Rose warriors will be touring with the Lions next month. So too will the Irish who ended the All Blacks dominant over all that stood before them.
Even Wales, who under-performed during the Six Nations this year, will have a good handful of game changers and world class players who can cause New Zealand all kinds of problems. then, in Scotland’s Stuart Hogg the Lions will have one of the very best full-back’s in world rugby.
So just what can fans expect from another tour of New Zealand. Should we expect a better tour that 2005, when the Lions came away licking their wounds from a 3-0 whitewash? Or, should fans take some comfort from the fact that Gatland was a proven record for delivering a series victory?
The ten match tour will see inevitable injuries befall some of the 37-man squad but rather than turn our backs on the possibility of a glorious result, we must instead remember that the home nations are some of the best in world rugby. Pooling together the very best of the best, we simply must have some sliver of confidence in their chances of claiming the scalp of the world champions in the back yard.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
[gravityform id=”1″ title=”true” description=”true”]
Read More About: All Blacks, British and Irish lions, england rugby, ireland rugby, Lions, lions head coach, lions tour, new zealand rugby, Rugby, rugby news, scotland rugby, Six Nations, wales rugby, warren gatland