The stakes are rising over next year's eagerly awaited British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand with Robbie Deans suggesting the visitors can strong-arm their way to victory over the All Blacks.

The former Crusaders and Wallabies coach believes the Lions could be "physically superior" to the All Blacks and that could pave the way for them to "absolutely" beat the Steve Hansen-mentored world champions.

"The Lions have the depth to pick from," Deans told the BBC today. "They have some once-in-a-generation players coming through, like [England second-rower] Maro Itoje. It won't be easy but they can do it."

Deans made it clear he doesn't subscribe to the view that the All Blacks are unbeatable despite their recent world record set for consecutive test wins and back-to-back World Cup victories.


He reckoned both Argentina and Australia had uncovered weaknesses in the All Blacks who had particularly struggled with the physicality of the Pumas but that the Lions would have to be clever if they were to prevail in the three-test series.

"Argentina put them under pressure ... they found a point of weakness," Deans said.

"Argentina were close at the 60-minute mark [in Hamilton], the Wallabies were close [in Auckland] - they've all been there. But you have to do it for the 80 minutes."

"The Lions have to play to their strengths. Physically there is no difference. In fact you could argue their group could be superior.

"The scrum will be key. The scrum will be a critical element.

"They [the Lions] have to find a way of denying them [All Blacks] the things they want. And they've got to find a way of responding to adversity. The All Blacks come under adversity but they find a way to respond.

"They've mastered the mental side of the game."

Deans coached the Wallabies to a 2-1 series loss against the Warren Gatland-coached Lions in 2013.

He also had a crack at Gatland for attacking the "arrogance" of New Zealand fans and media, dismissing it as mental psychology.

"There is an element of gamesmanship to be fair," Deans said. "If he wasn't the Lions coach he wouldn't be saying it."