Category: New Zealand Rugby

New Zealand Rugby News

Warren Gatland says his Lions possess the X-factor to unnerve All Blacks

• Lions coach tells players to express themselves on eve of tour opener
•Jared Payne withdraws from replacements’ bench with calf injury

Warren Gatland believes his British & Irish Lions side have the “X-factor” to stun the All Blacks and win a Test series in New Zealand for only the second time in history. The Lions coach is also keen to update local perceptions of northern hemisphere rugby and earn the respect of the public here from the start of the 10-match tour that kicks off on Saturday.

Contrary to the view of many New Zealanders that the Lions are here simply to make up the numbers, Gatland is in upbeat mood on the eve of his squad’s opening fixture against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei despite the withdrawal of replacement Jared Payne on Thursday night owing to a calf injury. “I honestly feel we’ve got some players with some X-factor to match the All Blacks,” he said, suggesting the touring side would be encouraged to play what they see rather than adhere to a rigid plan. “I want them to express themselves, starting straight away. You have to give them the confidence that they can go and do that and maybe create something special.”

Related: Gatland has flexibility and flair to shelve Warrenball and challenge New Zealand | Paul Rees

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/01/warren-gatland-lions-x-factor-all-blacks

Sam Warburton leads British & Irish Lions in tour opener as Kyle Sinckler starts

• All three Scots start, as does Jonathan Sexton, against NZ Provincial Barbarians
• It is important these guys lay down a marker for others, says Warren Gatland

Preparation time may have been strictly limited but the 2017 British & Irish Lions will launch their tour of New Zealand on Saturday with no lack of optimism. Sam Warburton will lead a positive-looking XV against the NZ Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei and his squad firmly believe they have the potential to make a strong impression on their hosts.

Warren Gatland’s first selection has been shaped inevitably by end-of-season domestic commitments which forced a quarter of his squad to miss the two pre‑tour training camps in Wales and Ireland. Consequently the starting lineup largely comprises players whose clubs did not make the play-offs, with the choice of Jonathan Sexton at fly-half perhaps the most interesting selection.

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

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/31/british-irish-lions-defend-schedule-all-blacks-new-zealand-rugby

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

• Wilkinson says Lions can prosper in New Zealand if they heed errors of past
• Tour led by Clive Woodward ended in whitewash and derision

Jonny Wilkinson has labelled the disastrous 2005 British & Irish Lions tour under Clive Woodward as “chaos like I’d never seen before” and warned the class of 2017 to expect a similar thrashing by New Zealand if they make the same mistakes.

Wilkinson and co were hammered 3-0 in the Test series 12 years ago on a widely criticised tour that called into question the future of the Lions. Woodward picked a bloated 44-man squad containing a number of England’s World Cup winners who were past their best and a 26-man support staff, including Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

Related: Woodward and Campbell – a duo mesmerised by self-regard

Related: Jeremy Thrush: opening Lions Test the only chance of win against All Blacks

Related: Remembering the Lions tour of 1971: the great awakening of British rugby | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/30/jonny-wilkinson-lions-chaos-2005-new-zealand-clive-woodward

Jeremy Thrush: opening Lions Test the only chance of win against All Blacks

• Former All Blacks lock says hosts could be ‘a bit cold at the start’
• Lions need to play to their traditional strengths, adds Thrush

Gloucester’s former New Zealand lock Jeremy Thrush believes the only way the Lions will win the series against the All Blacks is by playing traditional northern hemisphere rugby, dominating the set-pieces and driving mauls.

The 32-year old Thrush, who won 11 caps between 2013 and 2015, is expecting New Zealand to win the series 3-0, as they did in 2005, unless the Lions manage to exploit any rustiness in the World Cup holders in the opening Test.

Related: Dan Biggar eager to prove worth for Lions on and off field in New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/30/jeremy-thrush-new-zealand-british-irish-lions

Remembering the Lions tour of 1971: the great awakening of British rugby | Paul Rees

The British and Irish amalgam were a mess until 1971 but then the philosopher coach, Carwyn James, led them to an improbable series win over New Zealand

It was the year, said the New Zealand captain, Colin Meads, when the Lions stopped believing in fairytales. He was speaking after the drawn final fourth Test at the end of a series his side had lost 2-1 and his words resonated with his opposite number, Willie John McBride, who had had to be persuaded to put his name up for selection after three trips, nine Tests and no victories. “On previous tours we hoped we would win,” said the Irishman. “This time we believed.”

Related: Warren Gatland fears Lions will lose up to 10 players to injury

Related: Cryotherapy chambers and trying to forget Billy: welcome to Lions training | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/29/remembering-heroes-lions-tour-1971

Anthony Watson: ‘The All Blacks are good but we will try to dominate them’

The 23-year-old wing talks about Lions choir practice, rooming with Stuart Hogg, the good and bad of touring New Zealand and his fear of being fined

Being selected by the Lions for the first time is a step into the unknown for players in the professional era who socialise with opponents after matches considerably less than their amateur predecessors. When the Bath and England wing Anthony Watson arrived at the Lions training camp in the Vale of Glamorgan last weekend there were, aside from his club and international colleagues, faces he knew but not their owners.

By the end of the week that had changed. The bonding process started on the first night when the 14 players in attendance were asked to come up with four songs, one for each of the home unions, that would be rehearsed before the squad left for New Zealand on 29 May and sung during their time there when they arrive in towns and cities and are greeted by locals. “Bonding is a huge part of being a Lion,” says Watson.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

Related: If the Lions and All Blacks want to know what to expect … remember 1971 | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/20/anthony-watson-lions-all-blacks-dominate-new-zealand

If the Lions and All Blacks want to know what to expect … remember 1971 | Robert Kitson

Barry John, Willie John McBride and co soaked up everything New Zealand had to offer, laughed in the face of chilling adversity and lived to tell the victory tales

The British & Irish Lions touring party have not yet left Heathrow but they are already receiving plenty of sage advice. The New Zealand coach, Steve Hansen, has even warned this week about the pressure set to be generated next month by the “massive expectation” of the Lions’ supporters. Eh? It is akin to the Big Bad Wolf advising Little Red Riding Hood to beware the slightly loose paving stone up the garden path.

Related: Warren Gatland uses Messy Monday to prepare Lions for New Zealand challenge | Robert Kitson

Related: Forty years on: When we saw fantasy rugby in New Zealand | Martin Kelner

Related: Saracens’ collective force of will redrawing European rugby blueprint | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/16/lions-all-blacks-1971-new-zealand-tour-barry-john

Eddie Jones plans ‘bulletproof’ England for tough 2019 Rugby World Cup pool

• England drawn in same 2019 Rugby World Cup pool as Argentina and France
• Ireland and Scotland will face Japan while Wales face Australia

Eddie Jones has warned his England side they need to be “bulletproof” in Japan after being handed arguably the toughest pool at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

England find themselves in Pool C, alongside France and Argentina, following the draw here on Wednesday, setting them up for a potential semi‑final meeting with New Zealand.

Related: Historic move as rugby residency rules changed to stem Pacific Island exodus

Related: Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/10/england-argentina-france-pool-c-2019-rugby-world-cup-japan-new-zealand-south-africa

‘No one’s going to die’: Eddie Jones relaxed after Rugby World Cup draw – video

England coach Eddie Jones gives his reaction to the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw, with his side set to face France and Argentina in Pool C. Jones is quick to dismiss the ‘pool of death’ tag, saying ‘no one’s going to die’. Wales coach Warren Gatland also jokes that the draw was far kinder this time around than four years ago. Wales will face Australia, Georgia and two further qualifying sides

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2017/may/10/no-ones-going-to-die-eddie-jones-relaxed-after-rugby-world-cup-draw-video

Rugby union heads for Japan with the World Cup draw a landmark moment

Warren Gatland and the rest of the rugby union world will be in Kyoto on Wednesday when the groupings are determined for the 2019 tournament

Even Phileas Fogg would have struggled had he been involved in modern-day rugby union. One day Warren Gatland is in London talking up the Lions, the next he is en route to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw. Next week he has to be back in Wales, the week after it is Ireland followed by a long wintry trek around New Zealand. If it is Wednesday, it must be Kyoto, in theory at least.

There will be precious little relaxation at 39,000 feet either, if the pool draw takes on a deathly complexion once more. As Gatland observed: “Probably the team you don’t want to get is the All Blacks. Everyone else you wouldn’t mind.” He was smiling when he said it but pretty much every other international head coach below the top four seeds will be thinking likewise.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/09/rugby-union-japan-2019-world-cup-kyoto-webb-ellis-cup

Warren Gatland uses Messy Monday to prepare Lions for New Zealand challenge | Robert Kitson

The squad’s time together is at a premium before their departure but no stone has been left unturned in their planning – right down to the choice of music

Every British & Irish Lions tour has to start somewhere and these days it is beneath a teetering mountain of free kit in west London. The 41 chosen players heading to New Zealand have been issued with everything from multiple hats – peaked and woolly – to laptop covers and, crucially, have also now posed for their squad photo. Even if injury intervenes before the end of the month they will have something to show the grandchildren.

They call it ‘Messy Monday’ with good reason but, for the management, every second together is precious. Given all the various end-of-season finals and play-offs still outstanding, the full party will not be united again until the day before the squad fly out on 29 May. Warren Gatland, the head coach, expects to see less than a third of his squad at next week’s pre-tour fitness camp in Wales. By the time everyone reaches Auckland, still strangers in a few cases, the first game will be three days away.

Related: Premiership 2016-17: team-by-team review of the rugby union season

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/09/warren-gatland-messy-monday-lions-new-zealand

Warren Gatland’s Lions stock up for brutal schedule in New Zealand

The tourists have a mountain to climb but they have supplemented their squad and, despite claims their programme is ‘suicidal’, they relish the task ahead

Touring New Zealand is rugby union’s equivalent of climbing Everest. As the Lions start to prepare for their latest assault, having barely got beyond base camp on their last visit 12 years ago, the scale of the ascent can be measured in two statistics: one series won out of 11 and six victories in 38 Tests.

On the 2005 tour, which was planned with military precision, the Lions faced provincial teams in the buildup to the Test series, but this summer they face all five of New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises, along with the Maori All Blacks, in an itinerary the former New Zealand head coach Graham Henry, who spearheaded the Lions’ trip to Australia in 2001 and four years later was in charge of the All Blacks, has described as suicidal.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/22/warren-gatland-lions-new-zealand

Ireland’s win over New Zealand ‘will not give Lions advantage’, says Andy Farrell

• Gatland’s assistant says Chicago win will not give players any ‘super power’
• Steve Hansen warns Lions ‘clutching at straws’ if they focus on Ireland’s win

Ireland’s historic victory over New Zealand in Chicago does not give the Lions a psychological advantage this summer, according to Andy Farrell, amid accusations from the All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen, that Warren Gatland is “clutching at straws” if he thinks otherwise.

Hansen countered Gatland’s claim that Ireland’s first win over New Zealand in 111 years, during November, proved the All Blacks were fallible by pointing to his side’s win in Dublin two weeks later and fired some shots of his own following the Lions squad announcement, questioning the omission of the England captain, Dylan Hartley, and taking aim at Johnny Sexton.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/20/steve-hansen-england-captain-dylan-hartley-asset-lions-rugby-union-tour-new-zealand

Gatland’s Lions will follow Ireland and look to feed off All Black mistakes

Eddie Jones’s glorious England revolution has come too late for this tour. Like Ireland and Wales, the Lions will seek territory and set-piece mastery

John Kingston was in a state of shock when he was invited to stand in front of a camera last Friday night minutes after Harlequins had lost to Exeter at The Stoop. The club’s director of rugby wore the air of a man who, in the words of PG Wodehouse, had searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.

The match had been the most effervescent in the Premiership this season, fizzing with movement, daring, skill and the outrageous. Quins were at their most swashbuckling, one movement containing offloads from their props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler bore a New Zealand trademark, and in going on 192 runs in the match covered more than 500 metres with ball in hand and made 230 passes.

Related: Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

Related: Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/20/gatland-lions-ireland-all-blacks-mistakes-england-wales-breakdown

Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

• Gatland names extended 41-man squad to face All Blacks
• Sam Warburton named captain with Dylan Hartley left out for Jamie George

Warren Gatland believes superior goalkicking can catapult the British & Irish Lions to a first series win against New Zealand since 1971. After selecting an extended squad of 41, with the Wales back-row Ross Moriarty and the Ireland centre Jared Payne among the surprise inclusions, Gatland also claimed he has picked a touring party with the firepower to match the All Blacks up front.

With Gatland confirming Owen Farrell has been picked as fly-half, along with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar of Wales, the Lions head coach has packed his squad with goalkickers – Leigh Halfpenny, the player of the series four years ago, has also been selected along with England’s Elliot Daly, who possesses a thunderous left boot.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/19/british-irish-lions-squad-sam-warburton-captain

Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

Warren Gatland has selected an abrasive and battle-hardened Lions squad for the formidable challenge of taking on the All Blacks in their own backyard

There can be a slight sense of anticlimax in the immediate aftermath of a British & Ireland Lions squad announcement. Not every deserving individual gets picked, not every country feels fairly represented and the brutal realities of the schedule, particularly this summer, are not easily ignored. It generally takes a while for everyone to calm down and appreciate precisely what the selectors are seeking to achieve.

In the case of the 2017 Lions, ultimately, it is less the shortage of Scots that leaps out than the bristling bundle of competitive energy heading New Zealand’s way. This is not a squad picked for some vague trip to a generic location but specifically with the world champions’ backyard in mind. Warren Gatland is a Kiwi himself and not one of the 41 seats on the plane south will be filled by a player who dissolves at the first hint of pressure.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: Lions 2017 squad announcement: Warburton captain, no place for Hartley – as it happened

Related: Sam Warburton: ‘If you get criticism, so be it – you take rough with smooth’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/19/british-lions-2017-all-blacks-warren-gatland-sam-warburton