Memo to Home Na­tions: Ki­wis can be top­pled


It is a toss-up which hemi­sphere learned the most from this com­pelling and en­ter­tain­ing se­ries and, in truth, we won’t know for sure un­til the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Ja­pan.

there is no doubt the Lions struck a blow for Bri­tish and Ir­ish rugby union and the north­ern hemi­sphere, and will have seen the way for­ward in how to beat the All Blacks on a more reg­u­lar ba­sis.

But the past two weeks will have also been a re­al­ity check for New Zealand. In the short term there is not the slight­est doubt who will be more pleased. the Lions may have been a lit­tle sub­dued im­me­di­ately af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle, but when they sur­faced yes­ter­day I am sure they will have been glow­ing with pride at a job well done.

It is a frus­tra­tion that we will never know quite know how good they might have be­come, but that is the fas­ci­na­tion of the Lions and all we can do is salute War­ren Gat­land’s team for shar­ing the se­ries against the World cham­pi­ons.


the All Blacks will be an­gry at them­selves for their profli­gacy and a se­ries of un­typ­i­cal er­rors which demon­strated that there is still much work to do. With a Rugby Cham­pi­onship just around the cor­ner, Steve hansen and his think tank will stage a huge de­brief­ing.

New Zealand’s main goal now is more World Cup suc­cess in Ja­pan 2019 and the one thing they all know is that there has been a huge swing in power form the south­ern hemi­sphere to the north­ern hemi­sphere since the 2015 World Cup.

the All Blacks are not clearly not quite as good as we thought they were, but their raw po­ten­tial and tal­ent is still amaz­ing.

Beau­den Bar­rett is a very fine player but he is not Dan Carter yet and nei­ther is Sam Cane a Richie McCaw. Re­plac­ing those two iconic play­ers was never go­ing to be sim­ple. the All Blacks had in­juries and sus­pen­sions at cen­tre but none of the new­com­ers is a Con­rad Smith or a Ma’a Nonu, the other two big re­tirees since 2015.

the other thing that struck me is how the pres­sure got to New Zealand, in­clud­ing red and yel­low cards. es­pe­cially in the fi­nal min­utes of the last two tests, this sug­gests a vul­ner­a­bil­ity we haven’t seen for a while. I have no idea why they didn’t look for a dropped goal in the fi­nal three or four min­utes to close out Satur­day’s game — es­pe­cially on the last play.


the sec­ond test was a Road to Damascus moment when a new gen­er­a­tion re­alised that New Zealand are beat­able.

the Bri­tish and Ir­ish sides can match New Zealand now and we are pos­si­bly in for a golden era.

Never again should we dis­cuss the dif­fer­ence be­tween the game in the north­ern and south­ern hemi­spheres — and never again should we al­low the four World Cup semi­fi­nal­ists to be from the south­ern hemi­sphere, as in 2015. Four of the Six Na­tions teams in the semi­fi­nals should be the goal.

War­ren Gat­land, Rob how­ley and Neil Jenk­ins now have a mas­sive south­ern hemi­sphere scalp un­der their belt and that Welsh trio and all the Welsh play­ers will re­turn home know­ing there is no rea­son why they can’t beat New Zealand. Ditto Andy Far­rell and the Ir­ish boys. Far­rell is once again show­ing what a bril­liant coach he has be­come. And it’s the same for Steve Borth­wick and the eng­land lads.

eng­land coach ed­die Jones faces some in­ter­est­ing calls. Jamie Ge­orge is now a Lions test vet­eran but Dy­lan hart­ley shows no sign of slow­ing up; Maro Itoje and Court­ney Lawes had great tours but Ge­orge Kruis will be dis­ap­pointed, with Joe Launch­bury no doubt still per­plexed by his omis­sion.

Ben te’o demon­strated his qual­ity but does Jones aban­don the Ge­orge Ford-Owen Far­rell axis to in­clude te’o at 12? I think not.

Jonathan Joseph had a frus­trat­ing tour but looked good to me on the few starts he did get. el­liot Daly might look like a cen­tre but he ex­celled on the wing in three tests and can clearly do a great job there for eng­land as well.

Kyle Sinck­ler was a livewire, Dan Cole com­bined the good and the not so good. Are we near­ing a chang­ing of the guard there? Lots of great de­ci­sions for Jones in the au­tumn, which any coach would love to have.

For the Lions gen­er­ally it was a con­fir­ma­tion of their im­por­tance and ban­ished ridicu­lous talk of their fu­ture. But things must change. the clubs need to start co- op­er­at­ing to en­sure more prepa­ra­tion time and this talk of short­en­ing the tours must stop. A 10-game tour is the min­i­mum but the Lions must also start lis­ten­ing to those who pay play­ers’ wages.

I don’t go along with Gra­ham henry’s sug­ges­tion that the Lions should oc­ca­sion­ally host an in­com­ing tour from the All Blacks. I can see the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tion but the Lions rai­son d’etre is as an over­seas tour­ing side. take that away and I don’t be­lieve the magic would be the same.


SpeND­ING time in New Zealand has ban­ished a few demons from 2005. Shak­ing hands and chat­ting with tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu for the first time in 12 years af­ter the Brian O’Driscoll spear tackle was, for me, an end to it. Did ei­ther of them do it de­lib­er­ately? Ab­so­lutely not. Was it a red card of­fence? Ab­so­lutely yes.

twelve years on it was also star­tling but grat­i­fy­ing to read a

New Zealand Her­ald ed­i­to­rial which ad­vised that it is time to ac­knowl­edge the wrong which was done to O’Driscoll in 2005 and to ad­vise an apol­ogy is long over­due.

See­ing Sony Bill Wil­liams red-carded no doubt changed the course of this Lions tour. Dis­cus­sions re-emerged that night over the O’Driscoll in­ci­dent but it has felt good to move on from 2005.


ON Fri­day night I bumped into War­ren and his wife in a restau­rant and en­joyed a quick chat.

I con­grat­u­lated him on a job bril­liantly done, he scarcely missed a beat and did Bri­tish and Ir­ish rugby union proud. One of the things he said was that he now ap­pre­ci­ates why I brought such a big squad down in 2005.

A tour of New Zealand is now im­pos­si­ble with­out a min­i­mum of 46 fit, avail­able play­ers. You don’t run two teams but the re­al­ity is that you must run two match-day squads and that in test week the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mid­week team has to be handed over to a se­nior coach. there is just too much else to do and with­out doubt there should have been an­other game in the last week of the tour.

For the sake of the Lions, I hope the movers and shak­ers lis­ten to War­ren’s end-of-tour re­port.

the true value of the tour for the home Na­tions teams, I hope, will be seen in Ja­pan in 2019, but I feel the Lions may just have poked a hor­nets’ nest in New Zealand.

there is say­ing in New Zealand: ‘Go hard or go home’ and we can ex­pect the Ki­wis to be go­ing very hard in­deed over the next two years. It is up to the home Na­tions to go even harder.


Facetime: Kieran Read with his son af­ter get­ting his 100th New Zealand cap

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.