Ireland recorded a historic and record-breaking victory over the mighty All Blacks last weekend at Chicago’s Soldier Field, which now could have a galvanising effect on the British and Irish Lions.
That’s the opinion held by Lions head coach Warren Gatland. The Wales and now two-time Lions boss, was in Chicago to watch Ireland’s 40-29 victory over New Zealand and has come away from the game with the belief that the victory can benefit not just the home nations during their respective November international series, but also the Lions squad as a whole.
As the hotly anticipated tour of New Zealand fast approaches, Gatland recognises just how victory over the All Blacks can be a positive influence to the band of players he will chose to take on the world champions in their own back yard next year.
Speaking to the official Lions website, Gatland had this to say about Ireland’s famous victory:
“From a Lions context, you have got a group of players who have got the monkey off their back and have done it.
“We have spoken about confidence and self-belief, I have said ‘don’t put your hand up or get on the plane unless you are prepared to go to New Zealand and believe you can win.’
“So now we have got a group of players that have done that, so from my point of view that is absolutely fantastic.”
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With competition for places on the plane south set to be fierce, Ireland’s performance will see many of last weekend’s heroes become a point of interest for the Lions boss. As a squad, Ireland showed the hunger, commitment and quality that Gatland has demanded for the tour next summer.
As Wales, England and Scotland prepare to kick off their own autumn series this weekend, many more will stand up to be counted among the Irish who have already put their names to the head of the list of candidates.
Ireland now join Wales and England as a side to have beaten the mighty New Zealand. Only Ireland, however, have ever managed to put five tries past the formidable All Black defence. No other northern hemisphere country can boast such a record.
The road to selection for the Lions will be a long one. However, with a start that includes putting the All Blacks to the sword, Ireland has offered up many candidates that, should they remain fit and in form, will be hard to ignore when Gatland names his squad.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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