Gatland to experiment early on Lions tour

Ross Houston
May 31, 2017

The British and Irish Lions have arrived in Auckland to a Maori welcome followed by a rapturous reception from travelling supporters.

For the next six weeks on Wednesdays the coaching legend will give his perspective on all aspects of the tour, on and off the field on WatchMe.

To say the tension is palpable is an understatement.

The Lions' only previous Test series triumph against New Zealand came 46 years ago, while their fixture schedule includes appointments with five Super Rugby sides, plus the Maori All Blacks.

The Lions have not been to New Zealand in 12 years and if the current squad needs a lesson in how not to handle one of world rugby's toughest tours, they need look no further than Clive Woodward's ill-fated 2005 team.

Former England fly-half Stuart Barnes, a Lions tourist in 1993, said winning the Test series in such circumstances would be "epic". "A couple of years later we were there with a full squad of unbelievable guys from all different teams packed into the Lions, went out for the first Test and it was like chaos I'd never seen before".

"And then I just want us to win, and I don't care how we win".

In his first press conference in New Zealand after arriving in Auckland on Wednesday, Warburton was blunt about his side's approach.

A 38-19 defeat in Auckland completed the whitewash but Wilkinson remembers that the writing was on the wall in the first Test, highlighting the stark contrast between the Lions and the England side that had won in Wellington in 2003 under Woodward, a few months before winning the World Cup, despite being down to 13 men at one point. "It is a great pity that New Zealand First's Broadcasting (Games of National Significance) Amendment Bill which would make sure all top sports involving Kiwis are seen free on television was dumped by our political rivals earlier this year".

"It's nice to finally be here, it's been a lot of talking from the start of the season, really", Warburton said.

"They don't need to know that if he runs that line, it goes behind him and then we should be able to get the offload away". It is important you win (games outside the tests) and you do get a good feeling in the camp when you win games, but realistically these next three-four weeks, are going to be big learning weeks for us.

"It's going to take a little while to get our processes right".

He peeped ahead to the Blues game, next Wednesday, saying numerous Lions squad would start the tour against "one of the best club sides in the world".

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