It's time for non-rugby followers to become experts. It is time for New Zealanders, who normally wouldn't care, to start voicing opinions about the wisdom of the Lions taking a bunch of bruisers to New Zealand to try to beat up the All Blacks.

And it is time for everyone, across both islands, to have a bit of a tidy up and fuss around to make sure the expected 20,000 British and Irish supporters who will be here, leave with a favourable impression of New Zealand.

There's nothing quite like a tour by the Lions to have New Zealanders breaking into some quaint, stereotypical version of themselves.

That's how it is, though, New Zealand becomes a rugby-obsessed nation, realising perhaps that the game is still largely the way the country is defined in a wider geo-cultural context.


It is still the interface to unite and galvanise and if nothing else, New Zealanders like to enforce their rugby credentials to northern hemisphere visitors as a means to take some kind of imaginary whip hand.

Former Lions captain Gavin Hastings insists it is true that a few games into the 1993 tour of New Zealand, he was accosted by the woman cleaning his hotel room who advised him that he needed to run straighter on attack.

It was a pivotal moment - not for the practical value although Hastings didn't dispute she was right - but for the way it brought home to him and the rest of the squad how they weren't just playing against the All Blacks but the whole of New Zealand.

It also brought home that in New Zealand, there is no escaping public scrutiny on and off the field.

It makes for a torrid and relentlessly intense tour for the visitors and if there is one thing the Lions have learned from their last two visits here, it is that they can alleviate some of the pressure by getting out and about in the communities in which they are playing, press some flesh, smile, look interested and understand it is all a big, big deal in this part of the world.

And that's where the fascination lies with this impending tour which will kick off one month today in Whangarei.

The Lions are coached by a New Zealander, one with a deep respect for not only the history of the team he is coaching but more so for the teams they will play against.

Warren Gatland knows the Kiwi psyche, the culture of his home nation and all the little things that matter - such as people in New Zealand eat Weetbix and not Weetabix; they see Pineapple Lumps as some kind of confectionary revelation and that there is no point in the Lions coming out here and trying to re-educate everyone that cold, fried potatoes which come in a foil packet are actually crisps and not chips.

Gatland's predecessor, Sir Clive Woodward, seemed to be on some kind of crusade back in 2005 to alienate locals and bunker down in a fancy Auckland waterfront hotel.

In hindsight, he admits he got everything wrong and in by doing so, he has given the Lions of 2017 the blueprint of how they should be doing things.

This tour will deliver a clash of playing styles on the field but off it, there should be a celebration of like-minded souls.