All Blacks: Warren Gatland warned about New Zealand hostility ahead of Lions tour

By Chris Foy

Josh Lewsey and Matt Dawson after their loss to the All Blacks in the third test in 2005. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Josh Lewsey and Matt Dawson after their loss to the All Blacks in the third test in 2005. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Warren Gatland has been given a stark warning about the institutionalised hostility his Lions squad will face in New Zealand - from a senior figure in the last tour party there back in 2005.

At midnight NZT, the Kiwi coach of Wales will be confirmed as the figurehead for the British and Irish crusade next winter, which will culminate in three tests against the All Blacks.

As if confronting Steve Hansen's world champions is not a daunting enough prospect, Gatland has had a timely reminder about how his home country will unite against the tourists.

Bristol's director of rugby, Andy Robinson, was in Sir Clive Woodward's management team when the Lions last visited New Zealand 11 years ago and the hosts claimed a 3-0 series 'black-wash'.

Speaking yesterday, the former England and Scotland coach said: "The whole country is against you. Not just the players and staff but the government, the local shopkeepers, the children.

It is relentless.

"Whenever New Zealand and Australian teams tour here in the autumn, we roll out the red carpet for them. You don't get any of that. You know that everybody wants to beat you and they will do whatever they can to do it."

In 2005, that included an alleged spear-tackle on Brian O'Driscoll, in the opening minute of the first Test, which ruled the visiting captain out of the series. But Robinson recalled another factor - spying - adding: "Watching training. It is funny they said that about the watching of training (New Zealand made spying allegations in Australia last month). People have short memories..."

Just to add intensity and difficulty to a gruelling assignment for the Lions, it emerged that they will face several members of Hansen's Test squad in early provincial matches on the tour - against the Blues, Crusaders and Highlanders. Instead of holding back their best players, as Australia did in 2013, New Zealand are going to unleash their full firepower from the off.

"The Super Rugby sides will be loaded with All Blacks early, because there's a bit of time from game one to the first Test," said national selector, Grant Fox.

"They need to play, then as we get closer to the Test some of those franchises will have less access to the All Blacks as we start preparing for it.'

Assessing the mammoth task that Gatland and his squad will face, Fox added: "Any tour of New Zealand is going to be challenging because we've got real talent and depth here. It will be tough for them."

George Ford is among a large number of Eddie Jones' England players in contention to tour with the Lions and he said: "Everyone understands what there is to achieve this year."

But the Bath No 10 played down comparisons - made by his new club coach from New Zealand; Todd Blackadder - with Dan Carter, adding: "It's obviously great that Todd likens you to someone like that. Right now, I'll never think I'm as good as Dan Carter. He's one of the world's best in the history of rugby."

- Daily Mail

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