Final Audition

Tomorrow morning the Lions play their final midweek game which will then leave just the second and third tests to complete the tour.

The game is against the 2016 Super Rugby winners, the Hurricanes.

It is a formidable team (as they all are in NZ?) –

IMG_4131

The backline is virtually made up of all (or near) All Blacks and, given the ball and space can cause any side problems.

Centres Vince Aso and Ngani Laumape are the leading try-scorers in Super Rugby, while fullback Jordie Barrett has been a revelation on attack for the Wellington outfit. There are also two All Blacks on the wings in the form of Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder. In the pack, blindside flank Vaea Fifita is a right handful.

After the first test Warren Gatland has said that there are places up for grabs in Wellington and there are a few players who will fancy their chances –

IMG_4133

My own feeling is that Courtney Lawes, Justin Tipuric and  Iain Henderson are those with the best chance.

Several pundits have suggested that George North could still make the test team – frankly I think he will need a hell of a game to put himself in contention.

Both sides will be up for it – I have the Lions by 13

A New Addition

Although the Lions ended up being well beaten in the first test they did score a brilliant end to end try starting with Liam Williams running from his own 22.

There is a video on YouTube that is entitled British Lions – 10 Greatest Tries –

 

This now needs to include the one that Sean O’Brien finished at Eden Park –

 

 

Certainly would make the top 3 in my view – maybe even number one with BOD in Brisbane.

To be fair it’s much harder to score against ABs than Wallabies.

Fire Storm

 

Much has been written about the tragedy at Grenfell House and there is much scurrying around to shift responsibility and blame rather than dealing with the victims, their families and others who live in similar fire traps.

Jonathan Pie, as always, has a take on the disgraceful behaviour since the fire –

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Still the MP landlords are doing all they can to help eradicate poverty – although only for themselves sadly (and I suppose, inevitably!)

All Going Spiffingly

Now that the Brexit negotiations have finally started I am delighted to report that it is all going swimmingly – as long as you fancy splashing around in a tank of Great White Sharks that is!

After the strong and stable announcement that we were going to give the EU a damn good thrashing,  David Davies has now admitted that he’s not sure that we will  actually get a Brexit deal –

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/david-davis-brexit-eu-may_uk_594f8e58e4b05c37bb76eb6f

This after getting a bloody nose on the day when the EU rejected his desire for parallel negotiations out of hand!

This is also the bloke who readily admits he encouraged Mayhem to call the election.

Laughably he also said –

“She’s very good, she takes good decisions, she’s bold, she takes her time – there’s no essay crisis about this government.

“It’s very very very clear that she’s a good Prime Minister.”

There are only four things wrong there – ‘good decisions’, ‘takes her time’, ‘no crisis’ and ‘good Prime Minister’, apart from that, you’re spot on Dave.

Even Brexiteers are changing their minds ffs! –

A leading Brexiter has attacked David Cameron’s decision to call last year’s “vacuous” EU referendum.

Labour’s Gisela Stuart, who was in a minority of the party’s MPs who backed Leave, said the vote last year was “not good democracy” because no one in Government had been ready to implement a vote to leave and the groups that campaigned for it were immediately disbanded.

Still, I’m sure that Mayday knows what she’s doing – after all she’s shown how perceptive she is – and being ‘bloody difficult’ will really help us negotiating with 27 others.

I’m really confident right now that this won’t be a giant fuck up after all.

I’m with the Doris on Question Time who said that we don’t need to know about the negotiations –

http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/uk_594cb2fde4b05c37bb758b0c

“No, no, you’re talking about you as well. You don’t need to know. None of us needs to know, yet, exactly what’s on the table.”

Wendy: “No, because we know we want to get out of it and that’s the most important thing.”

Brilliant eh?

 

An Endangered Species

 

The biggest danger for the Lions is not the failure to take chances or the fact that they are 1-0 down in the series.

It is that the Lions may soon be extinct!

This article in yesterday’s Telegraph highlights the risk to the future of Lions tours –

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2017/06/23/premiership-chiefs-tell-lions-pay-keep-tours-going-current-form/

Ahead of the Lions’ first Test against New Zealand on Saturday, two of the most senior figures in the domestic game spoke out against rugby’s biggest institution being made a special case in a new global calendar after tour chiefs branded moves to reduce the number of fixtures and length of trips as “insane” and claimed the entire structure could be “killed off”.

The clubs are risking the wrath of rugby fans by their statements but in the cold light of day it is hard to dismiss their concerns out of hand – especially with regards to financial considerations and the investment in club rugby.

The fact is that ‘money talks’ as witnessed by the steady recruitment of players from the Southern Hemisphere to the Top 14, Premiership and Pro 12.

The proposed global season makes concessions in World Cup year, will the Lions also be considered a special case?

“It’s unfair on the players to ask what we’re currently asking from them. It’s difficult for the clubs, who are the ones that find, develop, nurture, pay players, to expect that – whatever the money – they are to do without their players for a large part of the season.

 

The most worrying indication from the article for me, is that this doesn’t appear to be an opening position in a negotiation, it looks far more like a line in the sand!

Tour chiefs are adamant that the number of tour games shouldn’t be reduced – to reduce the number of fixtures and length of trips as “insane” and claimed the entire structure could be “killed off”.

The next three tours to SA, Australia and NZ have only been agreed ‘in principle’ and negotiations are continuing. These cannot possibly be finalised without agreement from the employers of the players – and that agreement is patently some way off.

I love the Lions, we were lucky enough to go on the 2001 and 2005 tours and hope that they will continue, but I fear for their very existence beyond 2025.

 Differences of Opinion

There were  a great deal of differing views on the All Blacks win at Eden Park yesterday.

The game itself was hailed in both NZ and here as a triumph by the ABs but with some admiration for the wonder try sparked by Liam Williams that showed the Lions can finish – but not often enough.

Whilst most of the coverage was balanced there were four articles that stuck out for me.

The first was a vitriolic and smug account from Paul Lewis –

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=80&objectid=11881571

He is almost as vitriolic as Chris Rattue usually is –

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11881745

To be fair to Rattue (which goes against the grain), I agree with him about Brodie Retallick – the guy fully deserves to be talked about in the same breath as Colin Meads, Martin Johnson and Willie John McBride.

The two articles that I think are more important are the ones that talk about Wellington rather than the clinical finishing of the All Blacks and the lack of it by the Lions.

 

I’ve mentioned Gregor Paul before as a good commentator on rugby – he is knowledgeable and balanced – his views on next week are worth reading –

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=80&objectid=11881820

His view on changes for the Lions largely echo the ones I put forward yesterday – so obviously I would agree with him there.

His analysis of how difficult it will be for the Lions to win in Wellington is also interesting (and worryingly rationale).

That’s not to doubt their desire or appetite to win this thing. These are world class players. Good athletes, good professionals and men dedicated to the cause.

But they are not super human and the reality of international rugby is that no team on earth has managed in recent history to lift their performance in the final two tests of their respective season.

And another piece from the legendary Graham Price regarding the second test –

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/warren-gatland-probably-stick-same-13233768

But you know, ultimately it didn’t really matter what Williams did or didn’t do, nor any of his team-mates. On this performance New Zealand would have walloped any team in the world.

And the most worrying thing for me is they are only going to get better in the second and third Tests.

The Lions didn’t make the most of the chances they did create, whereas New Zealand, by contrast, produced a couple of match winning moments when we didn’t expect it.

 

The final word has to go to Mark Reason – who, more than most in New Zealand understands and appreciates the Lions fans –

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/all-blacks/94058464/.html

There will be thousands more words written about the tour, I would like to think that this will be one of the best memories –

OPINION: Come on, guys. You were magnificent on the pitch. Hard, skillful and intelligent. Everything we revere about the All Blacks. But far too many people in New Zealand really need to learn how to win. Listen to the Lions who always sing when they’re losing. Be Irish for a day.

A lot of Kiwis have been in touch since Saturday night who now actually want the Lions to win the second test. They hate this smug blanket that is settling over the country. They wince at all the gloating, all the high pitched crowing. Doodle, doodle, doo.

It’s unthinkable, but there are blokes and blokesses deep in the New Zealand undergrowth who have become Lions supporters for a week. They are the new black. They are the folk who used to turn out to cheer for the Lions when they toured apartheid South Africa.

 

Long Live the Lions! (see previous post)

 

A Class Act

Sonny Bill Williams is known for his generous acts – in 2015 he actually gave away his World Cup medal to a lad who the stewards had stopped from running on to get his autograph.

 

He was at it again after the game at Eden Park –

He didn’t get a medal so he gave a young lions fan his shorts and socks!

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=80&objectid=11881626

SBW21_master

A big man making even bigger gestures!