‘Cup fi­nal’ at Eden Park

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

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

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