Super Rugby’s ‘chaos’ could undo Lions
The British and Irish Lions have been warned against taking on the All Blacks at their own game as the pace and fury of New Zealand’s Super Rugby campaign is rammed home to British audiences.
Former England and Lions first-five Stuart Barnes used last Saturday’s Crusaders v Highlanders match as an example of ‘‘epic chaos’’ and a style of rugby Warren Gatland’s team needs to avoid trying to replicate on their looming tour.
Otherwise, Barnes, suggested, the Lions ‘‘will do well to win any of their five matches against Super Rugby franchises’’, let alone the All Blacks.
‘‘European rugby has its own peculiar strengths but certainly not the speed of the Kiwi game,’’ Barnes wrote in The Times.
‘‘And nothing like the individual skill. The game in Dunedin was quicker than any test match we will see in the Six Nations.
‘‘Players in all positions have to perform with no time to think before the inevitable abrasive hits. This wasn’t the ‘basketball’ rugby northern hemisphere observers once termed Super Rugby. It was a sporting battlefield. The only break from the action was to allow the injured to be carted from the field.
‘‘Errors? There were plenty. But playing at this pace, week after week, ensures the elite have their skills honed under everincreasing pressure. This is why New Zealand’s handling skills hold up so much better than any other nation’s in the eye of the test match storm.
‘‘The game is evolving at an increasing rate. There is New Zealand and the rest of the world. Trying to catch up with a horse that has bolted makes little to no sense.
‘‘Better for the Lions to try to slam shut the stable door. Until our culture changes we are only ever going to beat New Zealand when the odd blue moon blazes overhead. Taking them on at their own game is a guarantee of cloudy nights.’’
Barnes noted that it was only two games into the Super Rugby season and ‘‘these players will have eliminated the little sloppiness by the time the Lions arrive’’.
And the tourists’ chances have been further darkened by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen allowing the Blues and Crusaders to pick their internationals for the early Super Rugby games against the Lions.
Crusaders wing Israel Dagg is at full pace to confront Highlanders opposite Waisake Naholo during their pulsating Super Rugby match last weekend.