British and Irish Lions arrive in New Zealand

Hope Soto
June 1, 2017

North, who hopes the Lions can use their successful 2013 trip to Australia as "a springboard" for success over the coming weeks, is not concerned by a gruelling schedule that will see Gatland's tourists play 10 matches in five weeks, starting with an opener against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on Saturday. "I don't recall the score (a 49-25 Lions" win, thanks Google) but I have vivid memories of that day - not least because all schools had closed at lunchtime so we could go to the game.

The former Wales skipper had asked to be involved after being made to wait until the third match of the 2013 tour to make his bow - the last player in the squad to get game time on that occasion.

With one of the Lions' best talents in Billy Vunipola back in the United Kingdom after suffering a shoulder injury, Warburton's workload will be crucial to the success of the team this tour.

The Lions will be looking for their first series win against New Zealand since 1971 - when Barry John earned his nickname "The King". "For me, they're going to be the games to watch even more than the Test matches".

Gatland said he'd been preparing for the hard schedule for 12 months.

"I think the fact that obviously I know a lot of the boys anyway and have played under Gats for many years, hopefully that will cut down my learning time".

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That said, Warburton is on message as usual with his coach Warren Gatland in agreeing that the results of the tests are paramount, and that a defeat here or there along the way would not be catastrophic.

Tour captain Sam Warburton, who has recovered from a knee injury, will lead the side against the Barbarians, who are mostly composed of players from New Zealand's semi-professional provincial competition. "I know from experience in 2011 (as Wales coach at the World Cup) a lot of teams arrived here very much unprepared for what was going to happen".

"I don't care how we win, if we won every game 3-0 I'd bite your arm off", he said. "You want to be present in all the camps to get yourself in the best position to learn your role as early as you can and understand the way that Gats wants to play". The All-Blacks are sweating on the fitness of captain Kieran Read, reigning World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett, hooker Dane Coles and full-back Israel Dagg.

Ireland lock Iain Henderson said the men in green "got under the All Blacks' skin" in their shock 40-29 win and the Lions will aim to do the same in New Zealand.

At least 23 of those travelling to New Zealand will have begin their Lions campaign this weekend, with the squad for Saturday's game set to be announced tonight.

The squad departed for New Zealand on Monday afternoon following their Sunday night farewell dinner at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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