Category: New Zealand Rugby

New Zealand Rugby News

New Zealand sound Lions warning with 78-0 thrashing of Samoa

• All Blacks run in 12 tries, including eight in the second half
• Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett and Ben Smith impress

A Test match by name but not much more as the All Blacks blew away the cobwebs and Samoa as they warmed up for the Lions.

It was largely one way traffic as New Zealand ran in 12 tries as the 78-0 win at Eden Park descended into little more than an overblown training run.

Related: Lions to call up replacements to provide cover for midweek fixtures

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/16/new-zealand-lions-samoa-all-blacks-match-report

New Zealand 78-0 Samoa: international Test match – as it happened

The All Blacks produced some stunning rugby running in 12 tries overall as they prepared for the British & Irish Lions with a thrashing of Samoa

10.51am BST

So 12 tries in all, nine converted, with not a single point conceded. Samoa started the game in the ascendency and played well for 30 minutes, but the rapid counterattack which sparked New Zealand’s third try seemed to kill their challenge. What followed was a scintillating display of running rugby and slick hands.

Next for the All Blacks is the Lions in eight days’ time at Eden Park. It will be some spectacle. That’s all from me, thanks for reading.

10.47am BST

All Blacks captain Ben Smith speaks: “Samoa started out really physical and really tested us. There’s a lot of learnings there that’ll be great for our group. When we did the basics well we profited and managed to score a few tries. We’ll look to recover and look forward to next week.”

10.44am BST

The score tells the story of a remarkable performance.

10.43am BST

80 min New Zealand 78-0 Samoa Just extraordinarily good. The All Blacks show off their handling skills again, and when TJ Peranara charges to the line he opts to hand the ball generously to Lima Sopoaga to go over… but it’s ruled out for a forward pass earlier in the move!

10.40am BST

Another high kick is caught brilliantly, this time by Jordie Barrett, and the hands are sublime to work it to Sam Cane to go over. Stunning rugby by the All Blacks once more.

10.39am BST

7 min New Zealand 78-0 Samoa Sopoaga converts.

10.38am BST

This is some audacious rugby. They fly down the blindside and when Julian Savea hands the ball to TJ Peranara he opts for an ingenious chip for Ardie Savea to collect and touch down like basketball players pulling off an alley-oop.

10.36am BST

75 min New Zealand 66-0 Samoa The All Blacks have a scrum after a knock-on near the halfway line. They have been devastating from these situations in this match.

10.34am BST

73 min New Zealand 66-0 Samoa Lima Sopoaga pulls the conversion just wide of the posts.

10.33am BST

Jordie becomes the third Barrett brother in this match, coming on at full-back. He makes some ground down the left wing and when they move it into the centre, Lima Sopoaga skips through the disjointed defence and uses TJ Perenara on his shoulder, who runs it in. Ten tries!

10.29am BST

68 min New Zealand 61-0 Samoa Samoa have a scrum inside their own half, and an early push by the All Blacks concedes a free-kick.

10.27am BST

66 min New Zealand 61-0 Samoa In the absence of Kieran Read, and with Ben Smith and Sam Whitelock replaced, Brodie Retallick is now the All Blacks captain. He has been sensational so far today.

10.24am BST

63 min New Zealand 61-0 Samoa Lima Sopoaga adds the conversion.

10.24am BST

Israel Dagg collects the ball on the right wing and suddenly turns up the pace, attracting a couple of defenders before feeding Caea Fifita on the outside to finish off a flowing team move.

10.21am BST

60 min New Zealand 54-0 Samoa Beauden Barrett adds the two points and that is his day done. His form looks worryingly good from the Lions’ perspective.

10.20am BST

This try comes from a scrum in the All Blacks’ half. Several offloads at full speed, in particular by Sonny Bill Williams and Julian Savea, and it all sets up Barrett running into the corner.

10.19am BST

58 min New Zealand 47-0 Samoa TJ Peranara replaces Aaron Smith at scrum-half for the All Blacks. Ken Pisi is on for Samoa’s Albert Nikoro.

10.17am BST

57 min New Zealand 47-0 Samoa Barrett adds the conversion.

10.17am BST

A brilliant dash from Ben Smith who collects a quick Savea lineout and speeds through the Samoa backline before setting up Codie Taylor to run under the posts.

10.15am BST

55 min New Zealand 40-0 Samoa A raft of changes with Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock and Joe Moody among those making way. Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina and Scott Barrett, Beauden’s brother, come on.

10.13am BST

53 min New Zealand 40-0 Samoa Finally Barrett misses a kick.

10.12am BST

Julian Savea starts the move breaking through a couple of tackles, and when Retallick powers down the right wing it opens space for the All Blacks to work it along the line for Savea to finish in the left corner.

10.10am BST

50 min New Zealand 35-0 Samoa The Samoan pressure is eventually relieved by a penalty for not releasing, and Barrett can boot the ball downfield to touch.

10.07am BST

48 min New Zealand 35-0 Samoa A huge tackle by Owen Franks on Leiataua, and the All Blacks are defending well on their own 22. An ominous prediction from John McEnerney:

@lawrenceostlere “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” sluggish & 4 tries wait till they open up in the 2nd half. SBW 2 run riot v The Lions

10.05am BST

46 min New Zealand 35-0 Samoa Samoa get their hands on the ball and work through the phases, before an offside against Lienert-Brown hands them a penalty. Pisi boots towards the corner but doesn’t get particularly close, admittedly from a tight angle, but not even reaching the 22.

10.03am BST

The Lions will be watching this match closely, though it might not be making for enjoyable viewing. Here’s the latest news from the tourists’ camp:

Related: Lions to call up replacements to provide cover for midweek fixtures

10.01am BST

43 min New Zealand 35-0 Samoa Barrett keeps up his perfect record for the evening with the boot.

10.01am BST

That didn’t take long. This try is all about Anton Lienert-Brown, who darts into a tiny gap on the blindside and times his offload to perfection, leaving Israel Dagg with a simple finish into the corner.

9.59am BST

No changes at the break.

9.58am BST

The players are back out on the field…

9.54am BST

This match is the second of a double header at Eden Park today – here’s what happened in the first:

9.47am BST

Barrett adds the extras, and after a slightly sluggish start the All Blacks will be very pleased with their work, racking up four converted tries without reply.

9.46am BST

From a scrum close to the Samoa line the All Blacks feed a charging Sonny Bill Williams who batters his way through to touch down.

9.44am BST

38 min New Zealand 21-0 Samoa The scrum is turned over and the All Blacks will finish the half on the front foot searching for a fourth try.

9.43am BST

37 min New Zealand 21-0 Samoa The All Blacks are enjoying themselves now, scything the Samoa defence open and only a misjudged final pass by Israel Dagg prevents Brodie Retallick from going over. Instead he knocks on and Samoa will have a scrum on five metres.

9.41am BST

35 min New Zealand 21-0 Samoa That try was as good as rugby gets from a set-piece situation. Barrett adds two more.

9.40am BST

This is straight from the training paddock. New Zealand work the ball into the openside from a scrum, runners gliding either side of the ball carrier as they mesmerise Samoa into submission. Barrett makes the crucial break and feeds Ardie Savea who runs under the posts. A lovely move.

9.37am BST

31 min New Zealand 14-0 Samoa The replay showed just how well Sonny Bill Williams collected the ball mid-air having initially juggled it, before releasing in the tackle. Barrett adds the conversion.

9.36am BST

A crazy try, this. It started from a lightning Samoa break through the All Blacks defence, but they can’t quite find the finish and when Ben Smith pinches the ball near his own line he sparks a rapid counterattack. The All Blacks move the ball brilliantly via Sonny Bill Williams and then to Barrett, who fly-hacks his way to the line and touches down near the corner.

9.33am BST

27 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Yet another penalty for Samoa in the centre of the field, this time the All Blacks not releasing after the tackle. Good pressure from Samoa at the breakdown – the Lions will be watching with interest. Unsuprisingly, Nikoro kicks to touch this time.

9.31am BST

25 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Another 50 metre kick with the same result, Nikoro’s effort falling just short of the posts. I don’t think he will be given the chance to try that a third time.

9.30am BST

23 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Nanai-Williams tries another cheeky step but this time Jeroma Kaino shuts the door. But the All Blacks concede a penalty for hands in the ruck and Nikoro will get another go at a long-range kick.

9.27am BST

21 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa A stunning sidestep and dart by Nanai-Williams in the middle of the field opens the All Blacks up. He carries 40 metres before offloading but the final pass by Alapati Leiua is misplaced as they were closing in on the corner.

9.25am BST

19 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Samoa bring out the running rugby with which they started the game. A little kick through the All Blacks line is brilliantly anticipated by Ben Smith, who bravely collects the ball in the face of a couple of Samoan runners. But Aaron Smith’s kick a moment later goes out on the full and Samoa will have a lineout in the All Blacks’ half.

9.22am BST

17 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Sonny Bill Williams gets his first chance to run with the ball in hand, and produces a typically slick offload to release Smith. But a couple of phases later Barrett has the ball ripped from his grasp in the tackle and Samoa come away with it.

9.21am BST

15 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa It was 50 metres out and perhaps a little too far for Nikoro whose kick falls just short of the posts.

9.20am BST

14 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Samoa respond well to the early setback, with prop Census Johnston causing enough trouble at the ruck to earn a penalty. Wing Albert Nikoro will have a kick from some way out.

9.18am BST

13 min New Zealand 7-0 Samoa Barrett adds the straightforward conversion.

9.17am BST

Ardie Savea picks from the back of the scrum and is brought down inches from the line, but from the next phase they spread it into the centre for Barrett who powers into the line, and when the ball pops loose Anton Lienert-Brown is alert to touch down.

9.15am BST

11 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa Samoa elect not to compete the lineout allow New Zealand to set up a maul which is collapsed by the visitors under pressure. The All Blacks elect a scrum, five metres out. This looks threatening.

9.13am BST

9 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa New Zealand win a Samoa lineout and make a first attack in their opponents’ half. They win a penalty for hands in the ruck and show their intentions with a kick into the corner, when three points were on.

9.11am BST

7 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa Aaron Smith unleashes a huge punt downfield which has the Samoan back three running towards their own line, but the wing Tim Nanai-Williams responds with a big boot of his own down into the corner.

9.08am BST

5 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa A mistake by Beauden Barrett who drops the ball in the tackle and concedes a knock-on. A Samoa put-in on the halfway line.

9.07am BST

3 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa The TMO Ian Smith awards the penalty to New Zealand near their own 22 for a neck roll on Ardie Savea. It seemed a little harsh and Samoa’s excellent start is undone.

9.06am BST

2 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa Samoa work through phase after phase, closing in within five metres of the All Blacks’ try line, before referee Raynal suddenly stops the game to check on a potential neck roll. He will discuss with the TMO, Ian Smith.

9.04am BST

1 min New Zealand 0-0 Samoa It’s a fast start as Samoa move the ball quickly after winning their own lineout near halfway. The All Blacks are having to make plenty of tackles as the visitors approach their 22.

9.01am BST

Samoa start off proceedings with the Siva Tau, bringing roars from the crowd, and the All Blacks respond with their first Haka of the year. New Zealand might have edged it, intimidation-wise. Samoa will kick off.

8.58am BST

Singing done. It’s Haka time.

8.55am BST

Samoa are led out by Kahn Fotuali’i to a packed Eden Park. They are closely followed by New Zealand, who are unbeaten since 2009 at home having won a fairly ridiculous 45 matches in succession on home turf. It’s anthem time.

8.50am BST

There’s plenty of brotherly love to go round in the New Zealand side today. Ardie and Julian Savea, who are of Samoan heritage, both start while fly-half Beauden Barrett has his two brothers, Scott and Jordie, sitting on the bench. Ardie Savea earns his place at No8 after the captain Keiran Read failed to recover from a broken thumb, with Read set to miss at least the opening Lions Test. Full-back Ben Smith captains the side in Read’s absence. Hooker Dane Coles remains sidelined, as do fly-half Aaron Cruden and centre Ryan Crotty.

8.32am BST

The fans at Eden Park are being treated to an international Test match double-header and the first game has finished with a Wales victory over Tonga, winning 24-6. A good result for a young Welsh side with nine uncapped players in the matchday 23. There was a fine try by Alex Cuthbert in the midst of it all too after a chip and chase down the line.

10.56am BST

Today New Zealand host Samoa at Eden Park, the stadium where in eight days the All Blacks will meet the British & Irish Lions in the first match of the series. It is New Zealand’s only warm-up game before taking on Warren Gatland’s touring side, and head coach Steve Hansen has not held back with his selection.

The Lions will be watching on closely hoping for signs of rustiness in an All Blacks team who have not yet played a Test match this year, but they are unlikely to find much; New Zealand’s starting XV have 724 Test caps between them and are boosted by the returns of lock Brodie Retallick and flanker Jermaine Kaino from injury, while Sonny Bill Williams will play for his country for the first time since the 2015 World Cup final having come through unscathed from the Blues’ win over the Lions last week.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2017/jun/15/new-zealand-v-samoa-international-test-match-live

Steve Hansen picks strong New Zealand side for Samoa warm-up match

• Aaron Smith picked at scrum-half to face Samoa, in favour of TJ Perenara
• Sonny Bill Williams to make first All Blacks appearance since 2015 World Cup

Warren Gatland, look away now. After preparations for the Test series against New Zealand were dented, if not derailed, by a second midweek defeat, the size of the task awaiting the British & Irish Lions has come sharply into focus with Steve Hansen naming the strongest All Blacks side available to face Samoa on Friday.

Aaron Smith’s selection at scrum-half, in favour of the in-form TJ Perenara, is perhaps the most eye-catching choice considering his slump last year while the Barrett brothers – Beauden, Scott and Jordie – may make history as the first set of three siblings to play in the same New Zealand side, if the latter two come off the bench. What strikes most about Hansen’s side, however, is the heavy artillery it contains. It is ostensibly a fixture for New Zealand – who have not played together since last November – to get rid of any lingering rust but increasingly, and considering the Lions have lost two of their four matches so far, it presents the opportunity to make a statement.

Related: What the Lions must do: face down the intensity and start taking chances | The Breakdown

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/14/steve-hansen-new-zealand-samoa

Lions play Highlanders looking to sustain momentum for first Test

• Lions have to counter Highlanders’ fast-tempo style to prepare for All Blacks
• Andy Farrell: ‘We’ve got to be ready for them to hit us at speed’

The British & Irish Lions tour is approaching the rugby equivalent of Amen Corner. Negotiate the trip’s all-important middle fortnight successfully and anything becomes possible down the closing stretch. Get it wrong and, as with professional golfers who drop shots at Augusta’s pivotal holes, it can be hard to restore sufficient equilibrium.

Hence the reason the penultimate midweek game against the Highlanderson Tuesday, before the first Test on Saturday week, carries more significance than might seem obvious at first glance. The Lions badly want to maintain the momentum generated by their victory against the Crusaders and numerous examples exist of spirited ‘dirt-trackers’ playing key roles in successful tours.

Related: Crusaders 3-12 British & Irish Lions: five talking points | Gerard Meagher

Related: Lions’ stoic defence sets up morale-boosting win over formidable Crusaders

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/12/british-irish-lions-highlanders-andy-farrell-first-test

Lions lifted by positive impact of Conor Murray and Owen Farrell | Paul Rees

The partnership, featuring Murray’s tactical kicking and Farrell’s distribution, led to the British & Irish Lions’ best performance of the tour against the Crusaders

The British & Irish Lions may have been rocked by criticism in New Zealand of their playing style, but their victory against the Crusaders showed they are not going to be swayed by it.

They pitched up in Christchurch with six players from the 2013 tour to Australia who were making their first starts in New Zealand: if it was not quite the A-team, they brought their A-game, led around the field by authoritative, pragmatic half-backs.

Related: Sam Warburton to return from injury and lead Lions against Highlanders

Related: Lions’ confounding win gives New Zealand reasons to be fearful | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/12/lions-lifted-positive-impact-conor-murray-owen-farrell

Warren Gatland in bullish mood after Lions scrum puts squeeze on Crusaders | Robert Kitson

Forwards leave coach spoilt for choice and set tourists up well for the tests that lie ahead as they prepare for their match against the Highlanders on Tuesday

It is impossible to understate the fresh sense of purpose that has accompanied the entire British & Irish Lions squad south from Christchurch to Otago. Not many sides conquer a strong Crusaders team with something to spare and the result on Saturday had two significant consequences. Not only do these Lions have more belief in themselves but New Zealand’s worst nightmare is in danger of materialising.

From a New Zealand point of view all was relatively normal before the weekend. The touring team had been struggling to make an impression, the local media were in full wind-up mode and the Crusaders and the Highlanders were about to treat their visitors to a double shot of southern discomfort. Suddenly Warren Gatland is on the offensive, even publicly querying the legality of Super Rugby scrummaging, and the mangy, jet-lagged Lions of last week have morphed into completely different animals.

Related: Sam Warburton to return from injury and lead Lions against Highlanders

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/11/warren-gatland-british-and-irish-lions-crusaders

Lions’ confounding win gives New Zealand reasons to be fearful | Paul Rees

The Owen Farrell-inspired victory for the British and Irish Lions against unbeaten Crusaders, after being tipped to not win another game on tour, will keep New Zealand’s analysts awake for nights to come

As the past few weeks on the election trail have shown, a campaign rarely runs in a straight line. What seems certain one day can look unlikely the next and a few days after being tipped to go through the rest of the tour without securing a victory the Lions not only defeated the previously unbeaten Crusaders but gave New Zealand some reasons to be fearful.

One disappointment for the Lions, which will kick in after the euphoria and relief of a win they needed with the majority of the side likely to start the first Test, was that they did not adorn it with tries. They created chances but a mixture of poor decision-making, a lack of understanding and slack passing under pressure cost them from the opening minute.

Related: Lions’ stoic defence sets up morale-boosting win over formidable Crusaders

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/11/british-and-irish-lions-new-zealand

Warren Gatland in running for All Blacks job, says New Zealand Rugby head

• Steve Tew says Gatland could succeed Steve Hansen in 2019
• Current assistant Ian Foster the favourite for head coach role

A top New Zealand rugby official says Warren Gatland is among the potential candidates to succeed Steve Hansen as the All Blacks’ head coach, particularly if the British & Irish Lions achieve a stunning series win. New Zealand Rugby’s chief executive, Steve Tew, has also said the visitors remain a serious threat in the Test matches and, even if they lose heavily, that the future of Lions tours will not be endangered.

Related: All Blacks coach Hansen laughs off Gatland’s Super Rugby comparison

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/09/warren-gatland-all-blacks-new-zealand-rugby

Owen Farrell calls for Lions to master mind games before Crusaders clash

• Half-backs Conor Murray and Owen Farrell to start together for the first time
• Sam Warburton misses out with ankle strain

The British & Irish Lions have flown south, across the snow-capped Southern Alps, aware they have an increasing mountain to climb on tour in New Zealand. Some are billing their looming fixture with the Crusaders as a “fourth Test” on a par with facing the All Blacks and a second provincial defeat in four days would add to the pressure on Warren Gatland’s squad.

Related: All Blacks coach Hansen laughs off Gatland’s Super Rugby comparison

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/08/lions-tour-warren-gatland-alun-wyn-jones-captain-crusaders

All Blacks coach Hansen laughs off Gatland’s Super Rugby comparison

  • ‘He was probably trying to make a light comment,’ says Steve Hansen
  • Lions coach said not much separated Super Rugby and All Blacks teams

He cracked a small smile, then didn’t miss. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has never been one to waste an opportunity. This time it was to rubbish his Lions counter-part, Warren Gatland’s claim there’s little between New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams and what the All Blacks will bring to the three tests.

There’s a huge gap, Hansen suggested with a knowing shake of his head.

Related: Warren Gatland warns British & Irish Lions over discipline after loss to Blues

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/08/all-blacks-coach-hansen-laughs-off-gatlands-super-rugby-comparison

Warren Gatland warns British & Irish Lions over discipline after loss to Blues

• Gatland remains upbeat despite 22-16 defeat in Auckland
• Head coach urges players to cut down on penalties conceded

Warren Gatland believes that his British & Irish Lions squad could yet upset the All Blacks despite their frustrating last‑gasp 22-16 defeat against the Blues in Auckland. Gatland has warned his players, however, to stop conceding soft penalties if they are to put a tough start to their 2017 tour behind them.

With a string of tough provincial games ahead, notably the Crusaders match in Christchurch on Saturday, Gatland argues his side will be uniquely well prepared when they do finally encounter New Zealand in just over three weeks.

Related: Lions slip to disappointing defeat to Blues after stunning Ihaia West try

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/07/warren-gatland-british-irish-lions-new-zealand

Lions a ‘work in progress’ going into warm-up match against Blues – video

Lions assistant coach Rob Howley insists that the British and Irish Lions are a ‘work in progress’ as they look for improvement on their underwhelming 13-7 win over the NZ Provincial Barbarians. The Lions are set to play five games over 14 days prior to their three-match Test series against New Zealand and will field an entirely new starting XV at Eden Park on Wednesday when they face Super Rugby team the Blues

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2017/jun/06/lions-tour-new-zealand-work-in-progress-auckland-blues-video

Lions battling on two familiar fronts before second tour match against Blues

• Tourists working to gel unfamiliar players and combinations
• Assistant coach Rob Howley says it is unwise to reveal full hand until first Test

By the time the Lions return to Eden Park for the first Test against New Zealand on 24 June they will either be roaring or whimpering. The next five games – all inside 14 days – really will be a test of manhood and there is not a single local who anticipates the touring team returning unbeaten from their bruising provincial mini-tour.

If a talented, but occasionally flaky Blues side are not defeated in the opening midweek fixture on Wednesday, things will only get tougher. The Crusaders are currently heading the Super Rugby standings, the Highlanders are tucked in behind, a pumped-up Maori XV can make the All Blacks appear demure and the Chiefs play the most eye-catching rugby on Earth. Pick the easy option out of that lot.

Related: Gatland rejects ‘Warrenball’ jibes and urges Lions to unleash attacking flair

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/06/lions-battling-two-familiar-fronts-opening-tour-match-against-blues-new-zealand-rugby-union

Paranoia, infighting and Alastair Campbell: the 2005 Lions tour from hell | Andy Bull

Whitewashed, battered and humiliated, Clive Woodward’s men left New Zealand with their reputations tarnished – and their anger burned for many years to come

In the spring of 2005, the first postcards arrived. “They’ll be ready,” the cards read, “are you?” Soon after, wristbands came, sent by special delivery. They had “Power of Four” written on them, which, it turned out, was the official motto of the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour. It was all part of Clive Woodward’s grand plan. Woodward had spent 12 months scheming and made “no apologies for believing this is the best-prepared tour in the history of Lions rugby”.

Related: It’s not arrogance but New Zealanders are expecting a 10-0 sweep of the Lions | Nick Evans

Related: Lions race for No10 under way as Sexton, Farrell and Biggar audition for top job | Robert Kitson

Related: Jonny Wilkinson warns Lions to keep things simple or risk chaos of 2005

Related: Lions 2017 squad: player-by-player guide – interactive

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/04/2005-lions-tour-hell-new-zealand-alastair-campbell-clive-woodward

Lions race for No10 under way as Sexton, Farrell and Biggar audition for top job | Robert Kitson

Each of Warren Gatland’s competitive trio has something distinctive to offer against New Zealand but Ireland’s Johnny Sexton looks the man to beat

Twelve thousand miles away from Downing Street there is another race for No10 going on. The British & Irish Lions management have their own big decision to make this week and it is not as clear-cut as it looked a couple of months ago either. Once the Lions have finished their third fixture of the tour against the Crusaders next Saturday, they will have little option but to nominate their preferred fly-half to face the All Blacks.

The opening tour match against a New Zealand Provincial Barbarians XV in a rain-lashed Northland on Saturday is unlikely to supply all the answers. Barring something remarkable, a comfortable Lions win is anticipated and the fixture will not solely determine whether Ireland’s Johnny Sexton retains the shirt he filled with such distinction on the 2013 tour to Australia. The respective body language of Sexton and his main rival, Owen Farrell, nevertheless, will tell the coaches plenty.

Related: Lions 2017 squad: player-by-player guide – interactive

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/02/johnny-sexton-owen-farrell-dan-biggar-fight-lions-test-new-zealand

Five things to look out for during Lions tour opener v NZ Provincial Barbarians | Gerard Meagher

Ben Te’o’s No12 audition and when Owen Farrell will be used are among the problems on Warren Gatland’s mind for Saturday’s match

Warren Gatland’s team selection makes sense. Thirteen of the 14 who attended the first training camp start and considering all three fly-halves reported for duty the following week, he was always going to have a decision to make, opting for Johnny Sexton. The selection of Ben Te’o at 12 is nonetheless interesting considering he fits the mould of a direct ball-carrier that Gatland likes. We cannot read much into his choices yet but if Gatland wants to pair Sexton and Owen Farrell together at 10 and 12 in the Test series, surely they need as much practice together as possible.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/02/five-things-lions-tour-opener-nz-provincial-barbarians