Sunday 23 September 2018

Kaino: This feels like a World Cup final

Lions recharge their batteries in fun capital of New Zealand

New Zealand’s Jerome Kaino during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson. Pic: PA
New Zealand’s Jerome Kaino during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson. Pic: PA

It is as close as most of the British & Irish Lions will get to a World Cup final.

Well, given Ireland's underwhelming history in the ultimate tournament, it is probably the closest Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, Sean O'Brien and Tadhg Furlong will come whatever about the English and even Welsh internationals involved on Saturday.

Not that any of the four Irishmen would accept this for one minute, of course.

If you don't believe you can beat the best, you have no place in this red shirt.

You don't have to believe you are as good, or better than, the All Blacks to get the better of them.

Jonathan Sexton in action for the Lions during the second test against New Zealand. Pic: PA
Jonathan Sexton in action for the Lions during the second test against New Zealand. Pic: PA

You just have to have a collective buy-in to a smart game plan and the unswerving leadership to carry it out.

In the meantime, the Lions and New Zealand have taken different roads to the definitive third test.

The tourists are living up to that label by freshening up in the outdoor, extreme sports splendour at Queenstown, the fun capital of the country.


It is understandable in the last week of what has been a a full year of rugby when pre-season is taken into account.

There are weary minds and bodies that need to be revitalised.

"The tour has been very arduous for the boys," said Lions head of strength and conditioning Paul Stridgeon.

"Every day we've had 'off,' the boys have had to travel - either on a flight or a bus.

"They've not had any proper days off, so it's good to get the boys refreshed and then we can get fresh for the weekend."

It is a tried and tested method of operation as coach Warren Gatland has fine memories from previous decisions to take a step back from the intensity of the build-up.

"We did it in 2009 (in South Africa) when we did a safari and we did it in Noosa (in Australia in 2013), so we've tried to mirror that.," said Stridgeon.

"We won both final Tests in those series and we got something positive out of it.

"We've ran this blueprint a few times with Warren with the Lions and we've done it a couple of times with Wales, including at the World Cup when it paid off for us.

"Whenever we've done it, we've performed well," said Stridgeon.

"We went over it on Saturday to revisit it and see if it was still what we wanted to do, even though it was in the plan, and we all agreed that it was best for the team."

The world champions have regathered in Auckland to refocus their attention on how to make right what went so horribly wrong in Wellington.

Two-time World Cup winner Jerome Kaino recognises similarities between Eden Park in 2011 and Twickenham in 2015 and the third test.

"With it being 1-1, it does have the feeling of a World Cup final," said the flanker. "I am getting excited about the prospect of being able to play. It definitely has that feel."

Kaino put Sonny Bill Williams' shoulder charge into Anthony Watson down as nothing more than a cautionary tale of what can go wrong.

The All Blacks are determined to take their physicality up a level rather than temper it.

In truth, New Zealand and the Lions have shared the first two tests because the winner on each occasion has won the battle of the gain line.

"As you saw last weekend, both teams were quite keen to get amongst it," Kaino added.

"Discipline is a huge part of the game. We are not going to go in there and be cautious about anything.

"We have to impose ourselves physically like the Lions did and that's definitely an area we want to improve on.

"We know a lot of things are spoken about in the week, but that's not a reason for us to hold back. We know we can play physically within the laws.

"There is always going to be feeling between these two teams.

"When we cross the white line we throw it out there, but once it's over, we dump it."

Spoken like a true champion of the game.

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