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Honours deserved to be even as tourists weathered the expected All Blacks onslaught with a superior kicking game and superb defence
Like most people I had a sense of anticlimax at the final whistle. It was a strange feeling. I couldn’t help but think: “Even if they flip a coin, surely it can’t end like that?” But thinking about it a bit more, it means that the 2017 series will go down in history. We will look back on it in the future and there will be a bit of mythology to it.
And for all that it was a perplexing end to the tour, I don’t think there should be any changes to the laws. It is so rare that it happens and, as Steve Hansen said, it was probably a fair result for where the two teams were in that point in time. If it comes down to a draw after all the hype, everything that has gone on before, then so be it.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/10/nick-evans-british-lions-new-zealand-third-test
There has been an edge to New Zealand’s training this week, which is good sign that the team are focused on the job in hand against the Lions
All Blacks supporters will not even be contemplating defeat on Saturday. I have been involved in similar circumstances, when we lost to France at the 2007 World Cup when no one saw it coming, and just like back then, there would be a period of national morning and the inquest would start.
But there has been an edge to New Zealand this week. Steve Hansen’s selection is bold and while Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape are making their first international starts, there is a huge amount of experience around them, particularly in the pack. The Lions have a few more caps than the All Blacks but I believe that it is the type of experience that counts. This match feels like a World Cup final and the All Blacks have been in the last two and got the job done. And that gives them the edge.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/07/expect-all-blacks-reaction-lions-tour-nick-evans-column
Wafer-thin refereeing decisions and breaks of the ball won Warren Gatland’s men the second Test, and the victory sets up a mouthwatering decider
There is so much to love about the British & Irish Lions, and so much to love about what was a hell of a Test, but there is one thing that has annoyed me about it and left a bit of a bitter taste. The penalty to win the match is really frustrating and it is just a shame that such a good contest was settled that way.
It is not the fault of Jérôme Garcès because, to the letter of the law, it is a penalty. It is the law itself that is the problem. Kyle Sinckler jumps just before he is tackled, so what is Charlie Faumuina supposed to do? He is committed to the tackle – is he supposed to try to pull out and let Sinckler make a line-break? The law says it is a penalty but from a purely rugby point of view, it is frustrating. And that’s the game.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/03/lions-new-zealand-narrow-victory-thrilling-finale
Warren Gatland’s selection for the second Test gives the Lions balance, the ability to get the ball wider, quicker – plus it’s another kicking option
Brave? Yes. Desperate? Absolutely not. It has been said Warren Gatland is a man with nothing to lose, that he’s rolling the dice by picking Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell together. Make no mistake, Gatland has heaps to lose. Fail to win and the series is gone, so clearly a lot of thought has gone into this decision.
I think it’s an exciting selection. Before the tour started and as the warmup matches got going, I thought Sexton and Farrell would play together and Gatland has probably looked at the first Test, realised where the Lions were effective and realised they are going to have to score tries because he knows full well the All Blacks are going to score tries.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/30/lions-pairing-johnny-sexton-owen-farrell-warren-gatland
The Lions must be smarter and more physical in the second Test but the All Blacks will be ready for whatever Warren Gatland throws at them
The biggest problem for the British & Irish Lions is that the All Blacks are only going to get better in Wellington. They will know what is coming – Warren Gatland is going to throw the kitchen sink at them because the Lions must be more physical. I know Graham Rowntree well and he will be cracking the whip this week but New Zealand were not at their best on Saturday. They made uncharacteristic mistakes and they will improve.
But it is not just that the Lions could not handle New Zealand’s physicality. The big thing was the All Blacks’ forwards’ work with the ball at the contact area. What I noticed most was the yards they made after contact. Carriers like Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read were getting tackled behind the gainline a lot but they have the ability to spin out, make that extra one or two metres and make the pass.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/25/lions-margin-for-error-spent-all-blacks-will-get-better
Time will tell if Beauden Barrett can cast a Dan Carter-like spell for New Zealand but the first Test intriguingly pits his versatile fly-half style against Owen Farrell
In 2005 I was in and around the New Zealand squad and I was on the bench for the third Lions Test – they decided to give Dan Carter the night off. He probably deserved it after blowing away everyone in Wellington with a performance that left me thinking: “Bloody hell, how am I going to get past him and into the team?”
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/23/all-blacks-lions-beauden-barrett-first-test
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With an All Black tight five, the Christchurch side are powerful in the ruck and they can really do some damage through Richie Mo’unga and David Havili
Warren Gatland is kidding no one when he says there is not much difference between playing the Super Rugby teams and the All Blacks. He’s trying to take the pressure off his players but they’ve just lost to the Blues, who haven’t beaten another Kiwi side all season. Test level is a different, much bigger beast and when it’s the full-blooded All Blacks against the Lions the levels of pressure and intensity will go right through the roof.
While losing to the Blues was a blow it wasn’t fatal and now they come to the pivotal point of the tour. The team to face the Crusaders looks more like a Test side and, if they win, the Blues loss is forgotten. The problem, though, is that the Blues have given New Zealand rugby a taste of blood and the Crusaders will be looking to get a piece as well.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/09/crusaders-british-lions-tour-owen-farrell-nick-evans-column