Lions will need to be clever to win – McGeechan

Former Lion and British & Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan says the All Blacks should not be taking Sam Warburton’s side for the DHL New Zealand Lions Series lightly.

McGeechan said he did not think the Lions had been outplayed in their last six Tests, of which they won three and lost three by less than four points.

He wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: “Of the last five tours it was only in 2005 in New Zealand where we were tactically off the pace.”

McGeechan said people consistently underestimated what the Lions were capable of.

“I have no doubt that the rugby the Lions produce this summer will be exciting and high quality because of the calibre of player going. Yes, there are some big men in the squad. And clearly it is going to be a hugely physical battle. But I think only two of them are probably not what you would call natural ball carriers.

“Pretty much everyone can carry and offload and pass. The talent and versatility available to Gatland is unquestioned; it is probably the most talented Lions squad in a long time,” he said.

Players had adaptability to handle the various positions they would need to play in phase play while also reading situations to develop the next attack.

It would be vital that they received ‘clear direction’ from the coaching staff.

“The tough itinerary, although a double-edged sword, could put the Lions in great shape ahead of the first Test if well managed.

“It is not about trying to copy New Zealand. It is about developing a game plan which suits and reflects the character and qualities of the players.

“I am excited just thinking about the tactical approach of which this group are capable. I believe the Lions will have parity at the set-piece and huge strength at the lineout.

“But it is the quality of their breakdown work which will determine whether or not they can be successful in New Zealand – the ability to read the breakdown in both attack and defence,” McGeechan said.

Accuracy would be vital in action and thought, knowing when to attack the ball and when to clear out. Correct choices would allow more options in attack and kicking became a weapon, not just a way of easing pressure. But it had to be accurate.

“The All Blacks love nothing more than counter-attacking off poor kicking,” he said.

Having a ‘dynamic game’ mean working with an effective game play, accuracy and building combinations. It meant playing with ‘rugby intelligence’, he said.

“Strong players will be needed in New Zealand, that is a given. But clever players will beat the All Blacks, not goliaths – remember, they play South Africa twice a year.

“Developing a robust, accurate, dynamic game plan by the time of that first Test on June 24 is well within the Lions’ capabilities. They have done it before and will do so again,” he said.

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