Category Archive: New Zealand Rugby

New Zealand Rugby News

Jul 08

New Zealand 15-15 British & Irish Lions: third Test player ratings

Maro Itoje was immense for the Lions and Owen Farrell held his nerve, but Beauden Barrett was wasteful and Jerome Kaino could have cost the All Blacks

Jordie Barrett, full-back 9/10 Beauden’s little brother was as solid as a rock under the high ball and his first-half try, after his key part in the first, gave New Zealand a lead they really should have held on to.

Related: Lions and All Blacks tie thrilling final Test and series

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Jul 08

Lions and All Blacks tie thrilling final Test and series

• New Zealand 15-15 British & Irish Lions
• All Blacks score two tries but Farrell and Daly kicks earn draw

The British & Irish Lions have exceeded most expectations on this tour and did so again in a thrilling third Test. New Zealand’s proud unbeaten record in Auckland remains intact but the Lions have secured an honourable 1-1 draw in the series. If they could not quite emulate their 1971 predecessors, it will still go down as an extraordinary effort against all the odds.

The home side scored the game’s two tries in the first half through Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett but the Lions defiantly fought their way back to 15-15 before the game’s decisive moment. The French referee Romain Poite initially awarded the All Blacks a kickable 79th-minute penalty for offside against Ken Owens but, after deciding it had been accidental, changed his decision and awarded a scrum.

Related: New Zealand 15-15 Lions: third Test and series ends in draw – live!

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Jul 08

New Zealand 15-15 Lions: third Test and series ends in draw – as it happened

The Lions battled back from a 12-6 deficit at half-time to draw their final match of the tour and the leave the series with New Zealand tied 1-1

11.15am BST

Well that’s about it from me. It’s been a brilliant series and it ended, in the words of Jonathan Davies, with one hell of a Test match. Stick around on the site for lots of reaction from Eden Park, and I’ll leave you with Rob Kitson’s match report. Bye!

Related: Lions and All Blacks tie thrilling final Test and series

11.14am BST

And Warren Gatland adds on his future: “I’m undefeated as a coach, I suppose. I’m focused on getting back with Wales.” He doesn’t rule out another stint with the Lions, in South Africa in four years.

11.13am BST

Warren Gatland speaks: “The message at half-time was ‘we’re still in this game’. The players said the ball was very slippery which is probably why there were mistakes on both sides.” On the accidental penalty at the end: “In fairness to Sam [Warburton] he’s got the referee and he’s said it has to be accidental. We got the scrum and we held on. I’m really proud of the boys, they represented their four home countries brilliantly as tourists.”

11.10am BST

And here’s Beauden Barrett: “It’s not the result either team wanted. It was a great spectacle, it would have been good to see a result. They played well and Owen [Farrell] kicked really well.” He adds that he would like to have seen extra-time, “one hundred per cent”.

11.04am BST

Jamie George reveals he is disappointed with his lineouts today, two of which were penalised for not being straight. But he adds that it’s been an honour to wear the shirt. Jonathan Davies says that “it was one hell of Test match. Credit it to New Zealand, they built and lead but we came back. It might have been a fair result, I don’t know.” Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood ask him for his assessment of his own performance and he says “I did OK”. They tell him he’s been brilliant, and he grins.

11.00am BST

Lions’ backs coach Rob Howley is a little more upbeat than his players: “What these guys have achieved over the last seven weeks, it’s a great moment for us and the boys will savour it. We were trying to play rugby, trying to get to the outside edge. We’ve got back into the game and showed spirit that’s the 2017 Lions for you.”

10.55am BST

What has been able to shine through in this vacuum of emotion is the respect between the two sets of players, and it’s lovely to see. They embrace and chat before taking a walk around Eden Park to applaud the fans.

10.52am BST

Both captains are presented with the trophy! They lift it together, Read wearing his silver cap and sheepish grin, Warburton offering a friendly smile. Everyone’s a winner. Sort of.

10.50am BST

Read represents everything that’s great about the All Blacks, and rugby union in general. A warrior and a gentleman all at once. Warburton steps up and says both teams deserved not to draw, before thanking the army of Lions fans.

10.47am BST

Keven Mealamu presents Kieran Read with his 100th cap, a lovely silver number. Read holds back the tears as he pays tribute to Mealamu, the Lions, his family, the fans and finally his fellow All Blacks. “You lads are very special to me. I know you fought your hearts out tonight and I can’t thank you enough for that.”

10.44am BST

Now for the presentation. There is a trophy in the middle of the makeshift stage. I’m not sure who’s getting that.

10.41am BST

My favourite part of the post-match interviews was Sam Warburton revealing that Kieran Read said to him in the final minutes of the match: “This is rugby, mate.” And you know exactly what he meant.

10.39am BST

Maro Itoje is interviewed and he starts with “Aaah, ummm, aaah,” summing up just about everybody’s reaction without actually uttering a word.

10.38am BST

And here’s Kieran Read, who was asked how he felt: “Pretty hollow to be honest. We’ll walk away with a draw which doesn’t mean much. In my view it’s a penalty [at the end of the game], he ruled it correctly from the start. That wasn’t the reason why we lost [drew!] the game. It didn’t click for us and we stuck at it and I’m proud of the lads. It’s just one of those ones.”

10.36am BST

Here’s our initial match report:

Related: Lions and All Blacks tie thrilling final Test and series

10.35am BST

The Lions captain, Sam Warburton: “It’s better than losing I guess. I was ready to go to extra-time! We’ve come to the double world champs and to not get beat is something. We can take some positives but obviously as players you’re gutted to miss out on that win.”

10.33am BST

There aren’t many matches of so much significance which end with no celebration, at all. It’s a rather weird and anti-climatic finish and yet somehow it feels about right, both teams utterly drained but unbeaten.

10.31am BST

The All Blacks spread it right and Jordie Barrett charges to the corner, but he’s stopped a couple of metres before the line! The Lions barge him off the field and it’s all over. The match is drawn. The series is drawn. Now breathe.

10.29am BST

80 min All Blacks put in. They spread it and come forward one last time…

10.28am BST

80 min The Lions turn the scrum and pinch the ball! Webb charges away but his quick pass is knocked on and the moment is gone.

10.27am BST

79 min Accidental offside, Romain Poite decides. Wow, it’s a huge decision. No penalty but the All Blacks will still have a scrum in the Lions half.

10.25am BST

But first the referee wants to check that Kieran Read didn’t take out Liam Williams in the air. Clock stopped.

10.24am BST

78 min New Zealand restart. They try a short one and it works, with the Lions given offside! Penalty to the All Blacks.

10.23am BST

He makes it!

10.23am BST

Farrell will take on the kick. It’s dead straight, but very long…

10.22am BST

76 min Webb is impeded at the breakdown near the centre of the field – penalty!

10.21am BST

75 min Sensational power from the Lions pack who blast forwards, black shirts crumpling, and earn a penalty. Farrell punts to halfway. Lions lineout. Tense?

10.20am BST

74 min The scrum collapses, and resets. The Lions’ front five cannot afford to give up a penalty now.

10.19am BST

73 min The Lions fight at the breakdown with Rhys Webb doing good work initially to hold up the man, and they earn a scrum deep in their own half. “Now is not the time for soundbites,” emails Simon McMahon, “but I feel the hand of history on our shoulders …”.

10.17am BST

72 min It’s a scrappy minute or so as both teams try to gain the advantage. New Zealand do the better job and when Aaron Smith kicks to Liam Williams, the full-back can’t collect a tricky bobbler and knocks on. Watson off, Nowell on.

10.15am BST

71 min The All Blacks come again, before Barrett kicks deep. Watson collects it near the corner but keeps his composure brilliantly to beat Savea and make 10 yards. Webb kicks down Jordie Barrett’s throat, who comes running back down the field…

10.14am BST

70 min Jamie George’s throw isn’t straight for a second time in this half. Scrum to New Zealand, and he’s immediately replaced by Ken Owens. Gatland can take no chances in the final 10 minutes.

10.13am BST

69 min Lions kick-off, Smith box-kicks and the Lions will have a lineout near halfway. Rhys Webb is on for Conor Murray who’s played well once more.

10.11am BST

Slotted over, and the All Blacks lead again.

10.10am BST

67 min New Zealand heave, the scrum falls, and the All Blacks have penalty! It’s under the posts and that is a huge win for their front five. It was the replacement Kyle Sinckler who was penalised.

10.09am BST

Sam Warburton is taken off for a head injury assessment. Jones is back on, for now.

10.09am BST

67 min …but it’s a brilliantly won turnover by the immovable by Faletau just as the Lions were looking vulnerable. That man. Scrum to the Lions deep in their own territory.

10.07am BST

66 min Lions secure the lineout and Murray’s box-kick is enormous to find touch. New Zealand run their lineout and suddenly they look ominous. Savea flies down the wing but Watson hauls him down. Back they come…

10.06am BST

64 min The Lions have ball in hand once more. Murray decides to test Jordie Barrett with a high kick and the full-back passes it with a fine catch. A moment later his big brother fires a low one to the corner and New Zealand have won that little battle.

10.04am BST

On the touchline, Scott Quinnell might explode.

10.04am BST

62 min Daly breaks down the left wing after gathering a loose ball, and he sets up a Lions attack. Sexton and Farrell do their switch move again but yet another knock-on – Lawes this time – releases the huge pressure they had created.

10.02am BST

61 min New Zealand knock-on in the centre of the field by Laumape under huge pressure from Warburton, who has been brilliant again. Lions scrum. Kaino returns to the game, it’s 15 v 15.

10.00am BST

I’ve no idea how we’ve got here, but with 20 minutes to go this series is all square. That was some kick, by the way.

9.59am BST

59 min The Lions turnover and burst forward, the returning Sexton combining once again with Farrell before a high tackle on Lawes hands them another long-range penalty. Daly again? No, Farrell will take this one.

9.57am BST

57 min Aaron Smith’s huge kick is fumbled into touch by Daly running backwards. A needless error by the wing. Crockett and Faumuina come on for New Zealand at prop.

@lawrenceostlere massive 10 minutes 4 both side! Have the Lions got that All Black killer instinct? Make it happen Lions. It’s now or never

9.55am BST

56 min When the All Blacks do move the ball from the scrum Jonathan Davies comes in with a clever block on Barrett’s kick. The Lions get hold of the ball and pick up inches through the forwards – until yet another knock-on.

9.53am BST

55 min New Zealand scrum, and a couple of minutes are soaked up as Poite resets time and again.

@lawrenceostlere if the late great Bill McL was commentating he’d have said “Wooof that’s a howitzer” Thorburnesque kick from Daly

Refreshing change watching a sport and listening to a Sir Ian who’s actually informative #Lions2017

9.52am BST

53 min The Lions work the phases, then suddenly switch wide to Watson. He offloads brilliantly to Liam Williams but it’s called forward! The full-back’s eyes lit up for a moment there as he sprinted down the right wing.

9.50am BST

52 min Elliot Daly booms a kick into the air and Jordie Barrett chooses to volley it back the other way, soccer style. A few more kicks exchanged, and the Lions will have a lineout in the All Blacks half.

9.49am BST

50 min Courtney Lawes replaces Alun Wyn Jones.

9.48am BST

Clock stopped. It was actually Kaino’s arm which slammed into the face of Jones. What does Romain Poite reckon? He doesn’t like it and the Lions will have an extra man for 10 minutes.

9.46am BST

49 min The Lions pack dominates at the scrum but a moment later Alun Wyn Jones is clattered by Whitelock while carrying in midfield. The referee wants a look at the replay.

9.44am BST

48 min Johnny Sexton is down receiving more treatment, and this time he is forced off for a head injury assessment. Ben Te’o replaces him and Farrell steps across to 10.

9.42am BST

47 min A maul forms and players fly in from either side. In the midst of it Jerome Kaino rips the ball from Faletau and the All Blacks eventually earn a scrum. Brilliant by the flanker.

9.40am BST

45 min Knock-on by Savea in the centre of the field. A Lions scrum.

9.39am BST

44 min New Zealand seemed to have created another wonderful try directly from the lineout but the final pass to Savea is called forward, saving the Lions.

9.38am BST

43 min Very quickly the Lions concede another penalty. It’s kickable, but perhaps with his form in front of the posts in mind Barrett elects to go for the corner, with Read’s approval. It’s a brilliant punt right to the flag.

9.36am BST

Monstrous kick. Game on.

9.36am BST

41 min The Lions are immediately handed a penalty after Beauden Barrett’s poor kick-off, when Read dragged back Williams off the ball. Daly steps forward and elects to kick from just within his own half. Huge moment…

9.34am BST

The players are back on the field. CJ Stander is on to make his Lions debut, replacing flanker Sean O’Brien who took a knock towards the end of the half.

9.30am BST

There are two ways to look at that half, from the Lions’ perspective. They’ve been utterly outplayed, conceding two tries and not looking likely to respond with one of their own. But then again, a couple of knock-ons and missed kicks by Beauden Barrett have kept them in the contest and they are still within a score of the All Blacks. One thing is for sure, the Lions are going to need a special final 40 minutes at the end of this tour to clinch the series.

9.23am BST

Romain Poite brings a thrilling half of rugby to an end with the All Blacks in charge.

9.22am BST

39 min They don’t succeed, and instead give away a penalty at the next breakdown. It will be the All Blacks who finish this breathless half with the ball.

9.20am BST

38 min Sexton drills a clever kick into the corner and with a minute or so to go the Lions will try to steal the lineout.

9.19am BST

Beauden Barrett misses the two points from out wide.

9.19am BST

From a lineout the All Blacks secure the ball before working it to Laumape whose offload to Lienert-Brown is exquisite. He draws Watson and Williams before flinging the ball for Jordie Barrett overlapping on the left wing, who cruises over the line. Stunning try.

9.16am BST

The clock is stopped with Sexton down receiving treatment for what looks like a painful knee injury.

9.15am BST

34 min Sexton smashes into Beauden Barrett in the centre of the field and the crowd roar. Farrell tries a high kick and Watson wins it brilliantly, setting up an attack, and Sexton and Farrell combine to make a little break but the final pass is missing. After a one-sided half the Lions are starting to settle, but they concede a penalty and the All Blacks are off the hook.

9.13am BST

The huge collisions are leaving their mark. Two of the toughest men on the pitch, Kieran Read and Sean O’Brien, are both down receiving treatment. They are soon back in the game, however, to see Farrell make his kick.

9.11am BST

31 min The Lions opt for a quick tap and run the penalty, which was near halfway. Bold, and it pays off as they nab another penalty near the 22 for hands in the ruck, I believe.

9.09am BST

30 min New Zealand win the ball and work it to Jordie Barrett via a poor pass, who has to check and is clattered by Jonathan Davies, a huge hit. The red forwards power in Warburton steals the ball brilliantly, winning a penalty.

9.08am BST

29 min Savea’s power has given the All Blacks another dimension in this third Test. He makes another 15 yards and they are back in the Lions’ half once more, until a forward pass hands the tourists a scrum.

9.06am BST

27 min New Zealand use Savea to punch through the middle before the forwards gain a few extra yards. They work it right and the Lions repel near the corner, then left and it’s intercepted! Anthony Watson can’t quite find the space to scamper clear. The Lions breathe.

9.04am BST

25 min A penalty at the following scrum relieves the pressure on the Lions’ 22, but it’s back on a moment later when Liam Williams spills a high kick under huge pressure from Dagg. All Blacks scrum.

9.02am BST

23 min The All Blacks pinch the Lions scrum with an enormous shunt and only a fumbled pass to Beauden Barrett prevents another try. The Lions are clinging on a little here.

9.01am BST

Two different Lions players are down receiving treatment as the referee pauses the clock. The All Blacks have brought another level of physicality to Eden Park, just as we thought they would.

8.59am BST

22 min The All Blacks win a brilliantly crafted kick-off, then work an even more ingenious cross-kick to Savea who charges towards the corner. Williams gets his body in the way, taking a smash in the process, and eventually the move falls down with a knock-on in the centre, but that was some stunning rugby.

8.58am BST

Owen Farrell slots cooly from a slight angle and the Lions are on the board.

Not sure Specsavers have a good deal sponsoring officials who need to check everything with the TMO @lawrenceostlere

8.56am BST

19 min Beauden Barrett is penalised for not moving away on the floor and the Lions choose to go for the posts.

8.54am BST

17 min Davies uses his left foot to kick down the wing for Daly to chase. Barrett covers well but he has nowhere to go and Daly bumps him into touch inside the New Zealand 22.

8.52am BST

16 min The video replay shows no knock-on and the try stands. Barrett has another test of his kicking from close to the touchline – and it’s perfect. New Zealand 7-0 Lions.

8.51am BST

After the counterattack, New Zealand keep up the pressure, before the Barrett brothers combine. Beauden cross-kicks for Jordie in the corner who pats down cleverly for Ngani Laumape to grab and power into the corner. A brilliant try… but Romain Poite is checking something first.

8.49am BST

13 min Savea charges down the pitch and the crowd roar, but the Lions manage to pull him down.

8.48am BST

12 min Elliot Daly catches a Murray up-and-under and finally the Lions enjoy some ball in the All Blacks half. Sexton makes half a break, then Itoje makes a full one, hauled down at five metres, the Lions are closing in here… No, intercepted!

8.46am BST

10 min They go blindside and Beauden Barrett makes a ten yard gain. Suddenly Maro Itoje comes away with it, a crucial steal, but Farrell undoes his good work with a kick straight to touch.

8.44am BST

9 min This is utter dominance of the ball by New Zealand, and when the Lions seem to pinch a turnover via Warburton, Owen Farrell knocks on attempting a kick. The All Blacks will have a scrum on the Lions 22 and the pressure on the tourists is cranking up.

8.42am BST

7 min The first scrum of the match is a Lions put in and they work it well, with Conor Murray kicking close to the halfway line for an All Blacks lineout.

8.41am BST

5 min What a chance for Savea on his return to the side! Beauden Barrett picks a brilliant line before offloading to his brother Jordie, but Savea couldn’t hold the final pass on the wing with the try-line calling.

8.39am BST

4 min The All Blacks are straight back on the front foo,t working it wide before Taylor checks back inside. Laumape tries a little chip down the right wing but Daly does brilliantly on the turn to calmly collect, spin, and set up Murray for a long box-kick to touch.

8.38am BST

3 min Barrett shanks it well wide and that is a huge miss.

8.37am BST

2 min An early call from Romain Poite, penalising Warburton for hands in the ruck after it looked like he’d won a turnover for the Lions. Huge shout. Barrett will kick from perhaps 40 yards, straight.

8.36am BST

Johnny Sexton belts one deep and Aaron Smith fires back with an excellent kick to touch just inside the Lions half.

8.35am BST

Kieran Read’s eyes. That had feeling. Flames fire into the sky as the two teams retreat. The decider. Here we go!

8.33am BST

The atmosphere is something else, as if you needed telling. Here comes the Haka.

8.32am BST

When supporting the Lions, always look good doing it.

@lawrenceostlere compulsory lions stash? check ✔️

8.29am BST

Sam Warburton leads out the Lions, intimidation factor only slightly impinged by the large cuddly lion under his arm. And here comes Kieran Read, out on his own to soak up the applause on his 100th cap before his team eventually follow. He looks fierce, nothing cuddly here.

8.27am BST

A couple of giant crested flags are wheeled out on to the pitch. The players are next. It’s easy to forget in all the buildup and on Kieran Read’s 100th cap that Ngani Laumape is making his first start in an All Blacks jersey. Some occasion to do it.

8.23am BST

Ten minutes to kick-off. It’s getting awfully close. Yikes.

This is big isn’t it @lawrenceostlere? Empire State Human big – The flight home might be a bit quiet or rather loud

8.17am BST

The players are going through their warm-ups in front of a packed Eden Park crowd with swathes of red covering huge parts. John McEnerney has his game face on and his war cry ready:

@lawrenceostlere 3 words 4 The Lions ‘Whatever it takes” they were the last words the 2nd Test 97 Lions heard leaving the dressing room!

@lawrenceostlere “……you’ll be breathing through your a*se they’ll be worse, they will be worse” MJ 01 1st Test

8.08am BST

Or if you prefer your buildups to be a little less poetic and a little more dramatic, I’ve just the thing:

8.04am BST

Some recommended pre-match reading from our chief rugby correspondent, Robert Kitson:

One last spin of the roulette wheel and the 2017 British & Irish Lions will be history. This has already been a hell of a tour and everything now rests on the starkest of endgames. Red or black? It has the feel of one of those classic cinematic moments when the whole enthralled casino gathers round to watch the win-or-bust conclusion.

Peering over the players’ shoulders from afar, too, are the boys of 1971, the only Lions side in history to have conquered the oval-shaped Everest of a series victory in New Zealand.

Related: Lions prepare for a last whirl that could live in the memory for decades

7.54am BST

Steve Hansen speaks! “It’s got to be a game that we win up front, as with all Test matches. It’ll be a great contest. We’ve just got to play, but we need to keep the ball in hand more than we have in the first two Tests.” He says the occasion of Kieran Read’s 100th cap here – only the seventh All Black to reach that milestone – has barely been mentioned this week in the New Zealand camp.

7.48am BST

If the Lions do go down in Auckland tonight, they’ll go down swinging both on and off the pitch:

Related: Rob Howley hits out at ‘disgraceful’ NZ media treatment of Warren Gatland

7.42am BST

Warren Gatland speaks! “It’s 46 years since 1971 – these guys can leave a legacy. They’re here, a lot of them, because they’ve been in big games in the past. Many were there four years ago in Australia, and have played Premiership finals, European Cup finals… I’ve told them this is their only chance. The only person who could possibly be back here in 12 years is Maro Itoje! No one else is going to be.”

2.54pm BST

Despite the All Blacks’ defeat last weekend, most of those ridiculous stats are still intact. They still haven’t lost a Lions series in 46 years, or an Eden Park Test for 23 years, or back-to-back matches for 19 years. Yet this week those numbers haven’t felt so important. Likewise the many imperfections in the Lions’ tour don’t seem to matter anymore, the memories of defeats and wasteful finishing all washed away by a knife-edge win in Wellington. Suddenly the only thing that matters is the deciding Test between the All Blacks and the Lions. Games of rugby don’t get much bigger than this one.

Not that you’d tell from Steve Hansen’s demeanour this week. The New Zealand coach has tried his best to play down its significance and stress that losing is no disaster, while Warren Gatland is now the one exuding impenetrable confidence and talking up the occasion. As the Lions coach put it this week: “I think you should all be excited for what is potentially going to be one hell of a Test match.”

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Jul 07

Lions prepare for a last whirl that could live in the memory for decades

There is a glint in the eye of Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions as they gear up for win-or-bust moment against New Zealand

One last spin of the roulette wheel and the 2017 British & Irish Lions will be history. This has already been a hell of a tour and everything now rests on the starkest of endgames. Red or black? It has the feel of one of those classic cinematic moments when the whole enthralled casino gathers round to watch the win-or-bust conclusion.

Peering over the players’ shoulders from afar, too, are the boys of 1971, the only Lions side in history to have conquered the oval-shaped Everest of a series victory in New Zealand.

Continue reading…

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Jul 07

Steve Hansen tries to lessen the load but All Blacks feel weight of history | Andy Bull

The winning ethos is fundamental to the rugby culture in New Zealand and the prospect of defeat is unthinkable – the players dare not let the country down

The last, and only, All Blacks captain to lose a series to the Lions, Colin “Pinetree” Meads, said that each and every defeat his team suffered was “a national tragedy”. Meads explained he and his players were not just verbally abused by the public but, worse still, scorned by them.

When the All Blacks lost to Australia at Wellington in 1964, Meads and his brother Stan had to catch an overnight train after the match so they could get to the family farm to help with the lambing on the Sunday morning. “We got on to the train,” Meads remembered, and the guard said, ‘We shouldn’t give you a bed. You fellows don’t deserve one because you’ve just been beaten.’” The guard must have been a very brave man indeed.

Related: Expect an All Black reaction – because defeat would mean national mourning | Nick Evans

Related: Lions relishing chance to carve slice of history and leave a large legacy | Robert Kitson

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Jul 07

Gerald Davies: ‘It is a tribute to the Lions they can emulate what we did in 1971’

Gerald Davies, a key member of the only Lions side to win a series in New Zealand, says the current squad have delivered despite poor preparation timeThe Lions have a strong chance of winning the series and in sport you always have to believe you can d…

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Jul 07

Referee Romain Poite will be strict but fair in final Test of Lions tour | Paul Rees

Romain Poite is one of the best referees in world rugby and has shown he is not afraid to take difficult decisions in decisive Tests

French referees used to have a reputation for being homers, one reason away victories used to be so rare in the Top 14, but there are few officials New Zealand supporters dread seeing more than Romain Poite, who will take charge of the third and decisive Test against the British & Irish Lions, as he did in Australia in 2013.

Poite plays it straight and is not distracted by location or reputation, along with his compatriot Jérôme Garcès, who controlled the second Test in Wellington and had no compunction in sending off Sonny Bill Williams for a reckless, dangerous tackle despite the urging of a television match official to have a rethink.

Related: Lions beat New Zealand on tiniest of margins, and a thrilling finale awaits | Nick Evans

Related: Australia 16-41 Lions | Third Test match report

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Jul 07

Expect an All Black reaction – because defeat would mean national mourning | Nick Evans

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.

Related: Lions relishing chance to carve slice of history and leave a large legacy | Robert Kitson

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Jul 06

Warren Gatland sets the agenda for Lions’ last push against New Zealand

• There’s going to be an improvement in the All Blacks, he adds
• Romain Poite asked to be ‘open minded’ during Eden Park decider

Warren Gatland says his British & Irish Lions players are physically equipped to handle whatever New Zealand can throw at them on Saturday and will be disappointed if they now fail to win the series.

Gatland and his Lions are fully aware the All Blacks have not lost a Test at Eden Park since 1994 but, after a vigorous training session described as “tasty”, are not about to back down in the third Test. “We’re ready for it,” said the coach, who anticipates a full-frontal assault from a side who have not lost a series to the Lions since 1971. “There’s going to be an improvement in the All Blacks but it’s something we don’t think is going to be a shock to us.”

Related: Alun Wyn Jones: ‘It’s not about pleasing people, it’s about winning rugby games’

Related: Lions relishing chance to carve slice of history and leave a large legacy | Robert Kitson

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Jul 06

British & Irish Lions look to make history against All Blacks – video

A victory for the British & Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday would give the tourists only their second ever Test series win in New Zealand, emulating the famous exploits of the 1971 squad. Warren Gatland has put his faith in the same players who…

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Jul 06

Lions relishing chance to carve slice of history and leave a large legacy | Robert Kitson

The third Test offers the defining moment of the 2017 tour, with the All Blacks seemingly packing their side with players specifically to stop the Lions

Even a week ago few fans of the All Blacks would have imagined Warren Gatland sounding more quietly confident than Steve Hansen before the final Test. Gatland himself cannot quite believe it as he watches New Zealand’s ever-changing backline spin like a fruit machine that has yet to pay out. “It feels a bit ironic and strange,” he murmured. “The players feel that if we click we can do something pretty special.”

If this role reversal extends to the British & Irish Lions winning a series almost every Kiwi expected New Zealand to dominate, it will rank with Leicester City winning the Premier League as the sports story of the decade. Beating the world’s best team on their own patch with a squad who, until six weeks ago, were virtual strangers and had signed up to a “suicidal” itinerary? Improbable does not begin to cover it.

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Jul 06

All Black Bryan Williams remembers lessons learned from Lions loss in 1971

Bryan Williams became an All Black aged 19 and won several series but was also in the first All Blacks team to lose a series against the Lions

The radio in the Williams’ little house at 35 Kingsley Street was tuned to the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, just like every other set in the country. It was the afternoon of Saturday 18 July 1959 and the All Blacks were playing the Lions in the first Test at Dunedin. The games were not on TV. Instead everyone followed them through Winston McCarthy, “the voice of New Zealand rugby”.

McCarthy had a lot of catchphrases: “Goodness gracious me”, “They’ll never catch him now!” and “Listen! It’s a goal!” He used the last one a lot that day. Don Clarke kicked six penalties for the All Blacks and they won 18-17. At No35, the family were gathered around. Bryan, their nine-year-old boy, sat rapt: “Come on Black!”

Related: All Blacks 21-24 Lions: where the second Test was won and lost | Paul Rees

Related: Angry All Blacks still trying to get Wellington out of their minds | Andy Bull

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Jul 06

Alun Wyn Jones: ‘It’s not about pleasing people, it’s about winning rugby games’

Formidable lock has defied the critics to become the glue that holds the Lions pack together and is more than happy to play a supporting role to Maro Itoje

Alun Wyn Jones has one complaint about Maro Itoje. He won’t share his cocoa butter. “But that’s OK,” Jones says, “I’ve just got to watch him lather himself up in it.”

If that sounds a little familiar, it’s because the British & Irish Lions have thrown the two together as room-mates for the week, to help them develop their burgeoning partnership in the second row.

Related: Warren Gatland names unchanged Lions side for deciding Test against New Zealand

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Jul 06

Warren Gatland trusts his gut instinct and his Lions of Wellington | Robert Kitson

The Lions head coach has picked an unchanged side against the All Blacks who are looking a little uncertain with their three changes for the Eden Park decider

For a glimpse of what might lie ahead for the British & Irish Lions in the closing 80 minutes of their New Zealand tour, it is worth recalling the final act of their previous series win here in 1971. The Lions were 2-1 up going into the fourth and final Test and the All Blacks kicked off like men possessed. “For the first 20 minutes the New Zealanders played as if they’d drunk an energy potion,” the great fly‑half Barry John recalled. “I thought we were going to be stuffed.”

Related: Steve Hansen hoping pressure on All Blacks is a challenge, not a burden | Andy Bull

Related: Win, lose or draw, Lions tour has enhanced Warren Gatland’s reputation

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Jul 05

Whatever happens Saturday is going to be great for us, says Steve Hansen | Andy Bull

All Blacks coach expects a tight game and says rebuilding his team after the retirement of so many great players has been harder than people think

It has been a long while since the All Blacks lost in Auckland. Two decades, three years and three days, to be exact. But then, as Sam Whitelock said on Tuesday, “we shouldn’t have to lose to learn”, and in among all those victories, one seems particularly instructive right now.

It is the most famous of the lot, the 2011 World Cup final against France. A game a lot of New Zealanders assumed they would breeze through but which, in the end, turned out as close as they come, settled by a single point, 8-7. That match was a different order of magnitude again to the one being played on Saturday. But still, the third Test against the British & Irish Lions is, everyone agrees, the biggest that has been played in New Zealand since. “It definitely has that feel,” Jerome Kaino said, when he was asked how it compared to the World Cup final.

Related: Win, lose or draw, Lions tour has enhanced Warren Gatland’s reputation

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Jul 05

Warren Gatland names unchanged Lions side for deciding Test against New Zealand

• Wales full back Liam Williams passed fit to start after Wellington win
• Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea and Ngani Laumape to start for New Zealand

The British & Irish Lions will enter the decisive final Test against New Zealand believing they have already identified the best recipe to win the series. With the teams level at 1-1 the head coach, Warren Gatland, has urged his players to make history after retaining his faith in the starting XV from the 24-21 win against the All Blacks last week and also naming the same bench.

Related: Win, lose or draw, Lions tour has enhanced Warren Gatland’s reputation

Related: Lions reinvigorated by jet-boating, bungee jumping and the odd beer | Robert Kitson

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