No matter who excels or embarrasses themselves in the penultimate weekend of the Six Nations sufficiently to affect your all-important Lions XV, let’s all just be clear that the All Blacks are going to walk this series 3-0. I’m resigned to this, and have even spent thousands of pounds for the privilege of watching it in person. And as well as the three tests, I’ve even treated myself to provincial games against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes that I’m fairly confident will also result in some red faces for Warren Gatland‘s charges.
Anyone who watches Super Rugby – the UK press don’t, hence why they think the Champions Cup is so great – will know that the New Zealand teams are always better viewing than a Scorsese flick. And after the first two weekends of dazzling tries, epic comebacks and baffling skills only the Kiwis can produce, not only are pundits arguing over which team will actually win this year’s competition, but the players themselves are more than likely rubbing themselves with glee and onion dip at the prospect of shaming any team with Rob Howley as an attack coach.
During Sir Clive’s victory lap of misery in 2005 the Lions were playing the traditional NZ sides, cobbled together halfway through the season to get pasted by the tourists. It’s been the same with South Africa, and only Australia’s Super Rugby sides have faced the Lions so far in the professional era, with the Brumbies famously getting a scalp over a mighty 2013 Lions backline featuring Billy Twelvetrees, Stuart Hogg at fly half and Christian Wade on the crash ball – how could they lose?
Now, with the prospect of fully-loaded, experienced NZ teams getting their one and only chance to face the Lions – although anyone of the them could do a Riki Flutey and take advantage of rugby union’s hilarious residency rules to represent the Lions in 2021 – odds are that the Lions could lose more provincial matches than the four they did on the 1993 NZ jaunt. Even the Blues and Highlanders, who have suffered defeats in the opening rounds to their rival franchises, are packed with absurdly gifted players and produced tries that would have the Twickenham patrons voming into their assorted mystery bags.
Pundits and ex-players will surely be up in arms, wondering just how a great Lions side packed with players baffled by offside laws (Eng), any attacking flair (Wal), Hamish Watson‘s absence from the tour (Scot) and Simon Zebo‘s attendance (Ire), could be shown up so drastically. But for anyone who treats themselves to an early morning points orgy, the signs have been there for years.