The British and Irish Lions’ tough itinerary could scupper their hopes of being competitive during their upcoming tour of New Zealand.
That is the word from former All Blacks and Lions coach Sir Graham Henry who described the famous touring team’s schedule as ‘suicidal’, given they will have to take on all five New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises as well as the All Blacks in a three-Test series.
Henry was the Lions’ coach during their 2-1 series defeat to Australia in 2001 and four years later he coached the All Blacks to a 3-0 series whitewash over the Lions.
“There is huge pressure on the Lions,” he told ESPN.
“I know from my own experiences how much the players respect getting selected for the Lions. It is the pinnacle of their career. It is massive but they need to do well and I just wonder if the itinerary is suicidal. That is my concern.”
New Zealand teams have dominated Super Rugby in recent years and the Crusaders, Blues, Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes have all won that tournament already.
Those sides will offer tough opposition to the Lions, as witnessed last year when the Chiefs thrashed Wales 40-7 during their tour of New Zealand last year.
“They are playing New Zealand Maori, they are playing the five franchised teams – and those five franchised teams have nothing to lose, no pressure on them at all, so they will fire everything at the Lions and take them on,” added Henry.
“Hopefully [the Lions] have the ability to overcome that. But really when you tour, you need to ensure some momentum is created by results and you just wonder how they are going to go into the test series with that itinerary.
“It is very demanding. You just want the Lions to do well because it is such a marvellous brand in world rugby and they need to do pretty well to maintain the potency of the brand, because it’s huge for the southern hemisphere countries to have the Lions tour.”