‘Lions have edge ahead of first Test’ – Jones

Date published: December 26 2016

England boss Eddie Jones believes the build-up itinerary before the first Test of the British and Irish Lions' 2017 tour to New Zealand favours the tourists.

Many news outlets have claimed the Lions are on a hiding to nothing because of the tough programme they face in attempting to become the first Lions side to win a series against the All Blacks since 1971.

But Jones believes the pre-Test fixtures against a Provincial Barbarians side in Whangarei (June 3), New Zealand Maori in Rotorua (June 17) and Super Rugby sides, the Blues (June 7), Crusaders (June 10), Highlanders (June 13) and Chiefs (June 20) will give the Lions a significant advantage.

Jones feels the games organised would allow the Lions to adapt to conditions and to the playing styles expected in the Tests.

"What's going to be interesting is the lead-up games; how much form the Lions can get quickly against Super Rugby teams who are going to be firing," he told Sky Sports.

"I think there's a potential advantage there for the Lions. Although it's a tough schedule, everyone acknowledges that, but it gives them a chance to adjust to the pace and the tempo that's going to be played in New Zealand."

At the same time Jones acknowledged what the All Blacks had achieved in 2016 after the post-World Cup loss of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu.

"It's quite exceptional what they've done and that they've got the capacity to replace icons of the game so quickly," he added.

"The gap they have between the best player and their next best player is a lot smaller than any other country in the world. It's a great credit to New Zealand's development system and their coaches."

COMMENTS