‘Cup final’ at Eden Park
WELLINGTON: The deciding third test against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday will be like playing in a World Cup final, and the British and Irish Lions are keen to make sure they do not get swept up in the emotion of the game.
The Lions head into the match riding a wave of confidence after their 24-21 victory at Wellington Regional Stadium that levelled the threematch series at 1-1.
Assistant coach Neil Jenkins said the Lions know they must play the game of their lives to beat the All Blacks, who won the first test at Eden Park 30-15.
“Look, we know what’s coming. They’re incredibly good. We know that,” Jenkins said in Queenstown, where the team have been based since Sunday.
“Very rarely do they lose, and very rarely do they lose at home, so everything is on the line.
“It’s the series decider, World Cup final if you like. Whatever you want to label it as, it’s a humongous game. We know how hard it’s going to be.”
The only Lions team to beat New Zealand in a series was Carwyn James’ 1971 vintage, and if the current crop are to repeat that success they will have to overcome the All Blacks at a venue where they have not lost since 1994, to France.
Last Saturday’s defeat in Wellington was the All Blacks’ first home loss since 2009. The last time they lost two in a row at home was 1998 when they were beaten 13-3 by the Springboks in Wellington and 27-23 by the Wallabies the following week in Christchurch.
New Zealand were in the middle of a massive rebuild that year having lost several veteran players including captain Sean Fitzpatrick and loose forward Zinzan Brooke, and they lost five successive games.
Lions hooker Jamie George said they had to put all thoughts of history and records out of their minds and simply play the game on Saturday.
“I have said it before and I will say it again, we cannot get carried away with the emotional side of the game,” he said.
“We have got to make sure that physically we are on it, mentally we are on it, that we know our stuff and we can go into the game with clear heads and really attack it.
“We just think about play by play, minute by minute.”
Meanwhile, British and Irish Lions centre Jared Payne has been ruled out of contention due to migraine headaches.
The 31-year-old New Zealand-born centre complained of headaches before last week’s match against the Hurricanes, dropped out of the squad to play the Super Rugby champions and had medical tests. — Reuters