After a wet weekend of Super Rugby in New Zealand a few months ago I wrote how the conditions would not disappoint the British and Irish Lions and that their coach Warren Gatland would not be devastated if a weather bomb was to hit these shores and stay for several weeks.

Well, we saw how dominant the Lions were in the constant rain and slippery conditions in Rotorua against the New Zealand Maori. When the ball is that difficult to handle in the contact areas - where New Zealand players are so good - they can't get the offloads going and a big part of their game is taken away. They find it far more difficult to get one-handed reverse passes away.

If it's wet you just can't execute that skill easily. It simply means a big part of off loading in contact or just before is negated.

The Maori were shut out of the game but that wasn't only down due to the conditions, it was also the brutal way the Lions approached the game. Physically they looked tougher, their set piece was immaculate; in fact, I don't recall them losing a lineout, and they back it up with a faultless kicking game and flawless defence.


Even when the Maori had the ball they looked ineffective and lacked ideas. They made zero line breaks in the game and for a team that traditionally likes to use the ball and attack at every opportunity, that is an astonishing statistic. I have never seen them forced into kicking the ball so much, and I stress "forced" because in reality they had no other options.

Their try to Liam Messam was fortunate, the result from a spilled ball from George North, and wasn't from a line break.

Come Saturday at Eden Park, if these same conditions are in play, the All Blacks will be forced to play a different way. The difficulty in handling the ball will deny them chance to operate with the freedom they played with against Manu Samoa. They will have to enter into an arm wrestle with the Lions. The Maori had to do that and came second by a million miles.

Am I saying that the Lions only have a chance against the All Blacks if it rains? Absolutely not. This shadow test side is very well balanced. They showed that too against the Crusaders. Their loose forwards were excellent in Rotorua and in Christchurch; the tight five big, strong and uncompromising. They arguably have close to the world's best No 9 in Conor Murray steering the ship and they have solidity and punch in the midfield in Jonathan Davies and Ben Te'o.

Most importantly, they have arguably the best goalkicker in the world at the moment in Leigh Halfpenny at fullback. The Maori gave up 14 penalties, the Lions only four, and that shows the discipline in their side.

The question is, why would Gatland make changes to his winning team? Tour captain Sam Warburton is a consideration for the No 7 jersey, and Owen Farrell is likely to be fit. Gatland obviously has the Irish halves combination of Murray and Johnny Sexton, and both played well against the Maori, but the word I have heard from the camp is that if Farrell recovers from his thigh strain he will wear the No10 jersey.