Just as Auckland is undergoing a huge makeover with pop-up stalls and temporary bars as it readies itself for the first test tonight, so the Lions have been transformed from a scratch, underwhelming outfit into a tight-knit team who have been encouraged to be "bold and courageous", as they look to end the All Blacks' 23-year winning streak at Eden Park.

As head coach Warren Gatland put it: "Those sort of records are there to be broken."

The significant upturn in energy as thousands pour into the city in anticipation of a contest that will have edge and zeal, shafts of light and bare-knuckle dark, reflects the mood in the respective camps. They have both named teams that contain surprises " Liam Williams in at fullback for the Lions instead of Leigh Halfpenny, rookie Rieko Ioane for Julian Savea (46 tries in 53 tests). But these were choices based on form, an indication the two teams are reacting to the mood of the moment, buoyant and self-assured.

It took a 100-minute selection meeting on Wednesday, the longest Gatland has presided over, for the management to make up their mind. The Lions head coach was true to his word in giving every player a chance to prove themselves, promoting Williams as well as Elliot Daly from the Tuesday team who caused the Chiefs such misery in Hamilton.


The Lions now have a blend of forward heft and zip from the rear, living up to Gatland's belief that if they are to topple the All Blacks by smashing the Eden Park hoodoo, then they will have to offer more than just clout up front.

"It is not going to be enough to play set-piece and try to grind them into the ground," Gatland said. "We have got to score tries, play with flair, be bold and courageous, take some risks, and that is why the selection is the way that it is. The test will be a step up from anything we have experienced before. We have got to be alive for 80 minutes.

"We know there are periods when the All Blacks appear to lull, then they get one opportunity and just ignite. That is when they are at their most dangerous. But we are ready. We have been tested every step of the way. We have got better and will need to continue getting better. But we have stayed incredibly tight as a group and haven't let anything external have an impact on us. We haven't had any issues. We are in a good place."

That is true. And even though Steve Hansen had a last pop at Gatland in suggesting the Lions had been trying to "bully" South Africa referee Jaco Peyper, by highlighting issues of "blocking", Gatland has decided it is time for such tit-for-tat offerings to come to an end, albeit after one final barb.

"If I'm getting up his [Hansen's] nose, that's a nice position to be in," Gatland said. "But let's allow the rugby to do the talking. There has been enough thrash talking."

Can they deliver the knockout blow against the All Blacks?

It is quite a question. No wonder Auckland is at fever pitch.

The last time the ABs lost at Eden Park ...

●Bill Clinton was in the White House.
●Love Is All Around by Wet, Wet, Wet was No1 on the same day on the NZ Billboard singles chart.
●Lion King was the No1 movie of the year at the time (let's not read anything into that).
●Les Mills was the Mayor of Auckland.
●British Lions test player Maro Itoje wasn't even born. Nor was All Black bolter Rieko Ioane or midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown.
●A Kiwi film called Once Were Warriors was released and Peter Jackson had a breakthrough movie named Heavenly Creatures.
●Helen Clark had just become the Leader of the Opposition.