Hansen expects ABs to face 'Warrenball' in Lions tests

While Chris Boyd's side will be without their All Blacks, the depth he has built at the 2016 champions means they should barely miss a step against what should essentially be midweek Lions side.

Thrush has little doubt the Lions must nail a June 24 opener against the All Blacks in Auckland if they are to have any hope of claiming a Test series triumph. Putting aside Gatland's alleged bias towards his Welsh team, he has picked the right leader in the shape of Sam Warburton. The Highlanders could be without up to six players on All Blacks duty but have spent much of the Super Rugby season without one or the other anyway due to a lengthy injury list. Openside is a lottery but don't be surprised if James Haskell muscles his way in. Being with them gives you a good perspective on No 10 play. Angry, Johnny Sexton partnering him in the crucial stand off position.

Hansen acknowledges that they have a number of world class goal kickers, but doesn't believe the All Blacks will be at a disadvantage and isn't concerned that Beauden Barrett isn't the main goalkicker at the Hurricanes. For the sake of balance, which is the only reason why Farrell may not start, Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Joseph could make up the centres, mixing Henshaw's power and off-loading abilities with Joseph's silky running lines.

It will be the last chance for players to impress Hansen before he names a 33-man squad next week.

The tours are a lot different to what they used to be, and come with far more strings attached, because of the way the clubs own the players up north. There are a couple of characters in the squad - Ben Te'o and Kyle Sinckler.

McGeechan is the man who introduced Gatland to the Lions, and was quickly impressed by how the Wales coach bought into the Lions mantra. Then there are the young guns led by Maro Itoje, Anthony Watson, Kyle Sinckler and Robbie Henshaw. The 70-year-old says that's the way he always feels when he sees a Lions touring team for the first time.

"The hardest team to pick is a Lions first Test team, as a coach, because of the circumstances in what you have to do it".

The word from the Lions is that Gatland has inflicted ferocious training sessions on them as a necessary prequel to warm-up games against full-strength Super Rugby teams. If he does so, it may well be a gamble which pays off in the Test matches. Not only did the Lions win a brutal Test series 2-1, with Jeremy Guscott's drop-goal sealing the pivotal 18-15 victory in the second encounter, but the tourists' video diaries lifted the lid on a glorious last hurrah for and long goodbye to rugby union's amateur era.

Gatland has already delivered on his promise of getting the players to, quite literally, sing from the same hymn-sheet by having them sing songs from all four nations, while personal relationships are also being forged through room-sharing and a selection of tour committees being formed.

The British and Irish Lions have thrilled worldwide rugby audiences for more than a century, gaining many memorable victories on their travels.


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