As the Chiefs were humiliating Wales on Tuesday night, what became clear was the enormity of the task that lies ahead for next year's visiting British Lions.

The tourists think they know what they are in for on their 10-game tour next year. Having debriefed extensively from their previous two tours - South Africa in 2009 and Australia in 2013 - they reached the conclusion they were underdone for the first test in both.

So they asked the New Zealand Rugby Union to build an itinerary that was brutal - that would see them hit hard almost the second they stepped off the plane.

Their thinking is sound - come to New Zealand and confront all it has head on. It's a country, in rugby terms at least, that has broken many teams.


The last Lions that toured here in 2005 were one of those victims. They couldn't have got things more wrong with their bloated squad, high profile spin doctor, cast of thousands in the coaching team and seemingly total lack of understanding of what they would be facing each time they played.

The 2017 team don't want to make that same mistake. They are willing to have lumps taken out of them and maybe even lose a couple of tour games to achieve the greater goal of winning the test series.

A handful of the Lions senior management were in Hamilton to see the destruction of Wales. It confirmed for them what they already knew - that Super Rugby teams in New Zealand are quite capable.

The 40-7 scoreline didn't fill them with any deeper foreboding. Wales, they could convince themselves, were as much the architects of their own demise as the Chiefs. And the Lions, unless something has gone horribly wrong, will be taking a 38-man squad that should have infinitely more quality then the one Wales have taken.

But the Lions perhaps need to be more wary than maybe they realise. No side has ever come to New Zealand to take on Super Rugby sides. The 2017 schedule is unprecedented.

After what is likely to be a gentle opener in Whangarei against a Provincial Union XV, they will play the Blues, Crusaders, Highlanders, NZ Maori and Chiefs before the first test - all in the space of 17 days.

That's an incredible challenge as even if, as will most likely be the case, the Super Rugby sides are not able to pick their All Blacks, they will be dangerously capable.

What Tuesday showed is that New Zealand has a depth of quality that is staggering. James Lowe is probably good enough to be a test starter for any of the Six Nations.

Taleni Seu and Anton Leinert-Brown are going to be on the cusp of All Blacks selection this time next year and relative unknowns such as Lachlan Boshier can come into the team and play like they belong there.

The Lions can't use their experience of playing Super Rugby sides on their last tour to Australia as a reference point. What they encountered there is not what they will be faced with in New Zealand.

Next year, there will be no hiding place. Even the Blues, the weakest of the five, will be able to play at a pace that will stretch the Lions - take them on an uncomfortable journey.

The relentlessness of it is going to be the challenge for the Lions. Three days after they play the Blues, they face the Crusaders and then three days after that, it's the Highlanders. They won't be undercooked, they can be sure of that.

The Lions rightly feel that a tough schedule could make them.

It could also break them, though and leave them in pieces before they have even copped a sight of the All Blacks.