Tourists find them­selves up against likely All Black front row in Christchurch

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FAC­ING the Cru­saders pack should be a great op­por­tu­nity for the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions to test their met­tle ahead of the Test se­ries against the All Blacks, ac­cord­ing to as­sis­tant coach Gra­ham Rown­tree.

The Lions face the seven-time Su­per Rugby cham­pi­ons in Christchurch to­day need­ing to step up their in­ten­sity af­ter a medi­ocre start to their 10-match tour of New Zealand.

Cru­saders coach Scott Robert­son has done the vis­i­tors no favours by nam­ing six All Blacks in his pack, with the front row of props Joe Moody and Owen Franks and hooker Codie Tay­lor likely to start the first Test on June 24.

“They are a very com­pet­i­tive out­fit, very ag­gres­sive on op­po­si­tion ball,” said Rown­tree. “They’re top of the stats in terms of pres­suris­ing op­po­si­tion ball, very clean on their own ball, as well. It’s a real chal­lenge for us.”

It is a long way from 2003 when Rown­tree the player stood up against a full-strength All Blacks scrum with two of his Eng­land team­mates, Neil Back and Lawrence Dal­laglio, in the sin bin.

Rown­tree and his five other for­wards re­pelled one at­tack­ing scrum af­ter the other to keep the All Blacks out and se­cured a 15-13 vic­tory that then coach Clive Wood­ward said con­vinced him his side would win the World Cup later that year.

The 46-year-old, who sur­pris­ingly did not make Wood­ward’s World Cup squad, said the clash with the Cru­saders is one he would have rel­ished him­self.

“This is a game that if I was a player, I’d think I’ll see how good I am and test my­self,” Rown­tree added. “It’s great, it’ll be great for us, proper in­ten­sity.

“These are the games that we want go­ing into a test se­ries, play­ing against a top team full of All Blacks. In my area of the game it’s a mas­sive chal­lenge.

“We talk about the set-pieces as phys­i­cal state­ments as for­wards coaches, win­ning those lit­tle bat­tles in the war of a game.

“It could be a scrum or a maul or, on the flip side, de­fend­ing those. They’re big bat­tle ar­eas in a game and we’ve got to match them and bet­ter them at the week­end.”

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