WAIRARAPA rugby icon Sir Brian Lochore is sounding a warning to the All Blacks and every rugby team in the country that is about to come up against the might of the Lions.
This could be the best team ever assembled by the home unions ? and that includes the nearly invincible 1971 side that blitzed the provinces and rolled the All Blacks.
Lochore's views on what lies ahead are not to be taken lightly ? he probably has more experience of Lions rugby teams than any other New Zealander.
As an 18-year-old green recruit to big time football he first faced the Lions back in 1959.
That was at Solway Showgrounds when flanker Lochore was playing in a combined Wairarapa-Bush team that went down to the talented tourists 37-11.
His enduring memories of that encounter ? 46 years on ? is feeling hellishly nervous before kick-off, somewhat in awe of having to compete for lineout ball against towering English lock Richard Marques ? a near seven-footer ? and how quickly it was all over.
"I remember it all went pretty quickly. The pace of the game comes as a shock when you step up to town hall class, so to speak."
For all that Lochore remembers feeling that the Wairarapa-Bush boys went fairly well, considering who they were up against, and the fact that they played practically the whole game with 14 men.
First five eighth Rikys was injured in the first few minutes and left the field. He returned late in the match as a virtual second fullback but by then the damage to the score-line had been done.
The Lions side included the likes of glamour boy winger Tony O'Reilly, who went on to become one of the world's most successful businessmen; side-stepping wizard Peter Jackson, nifty halfback Dickie Jeeps and Marques, who at that time held the record of being the tallest ever international rugby player.
Accounts of the game confirm that the young Lochore had an impressive debut to his international career.
The Wairarapa Times-Age of August 26, 1959 summed up his performance as being "outstanding, whether tackling, pursuing the loose ball or lending support in tight play."
He was also credited with saving a certain try by cutting down the elusive Jackson as he headed for the touchdown.
By the Lions' return, under captain Mike Campbell-Lamerton in 1966, Lochore was a seasoned player. He had a tour of the British Isles under his belt and was named captain for the Lions series.
As Wairarapa-Bush captain he led his side out on to Memorial Park in Masterton to grind away at the Lions who struggled to beat the locals 9-6.
Apart from Lochore, that combined side boasted some of the best players to come out of the district in years, including Brent Elder, George Mahupuku, Bob Meadows and Bill Rowlands.
Lochore's brilliant international career during which he captained the All Blacks in 18 tests was to all intents and purposes over in 1971, when he hung up his All Black boots after World 15 games in Britain ? but not quite.
His retirement was brief.
The 1971 Lions were in town and Wairarapa-Bush had lost its star forward performer Ian Turley.
The team needed some tall timber to help out and there was only one man for the job.
Lochore laced up his boots and got back into the fray.
The triumphant Lions won 27-6 but Lochore had enjoyed his "final" encounter, being unencumbered with captaincy.
He headed home, yet again to retirement. Or so he thought.
On the day before the third test in Wellington he fielded a telephone call from a frantic All Black coach Bob Duff.
Lock Peter Whiting was injured and couldn't play and star forwards Colin Meads and Ian Kirkpatrick were doubtful also.
"We need you" was the plea and, being a loyal kiwi, what could Lochore say?
He quickly packed a bag, scrawled a note to wife Pam who wasn't home, jumped in the Land Rover and drove to Masterton Railway Station to catch the 2pm train to Wellington.
The note to Pam read "Gone to Wellington, playing test tomorrow. Will ring you later."
The upshot was the All Blacks lost and by the players' own accounts played badly.
BJ Lochore was finally able to come home.
Looking into his crystal ball, and having studied the home union games on television Lochore thinks this year's Lions side could prove to be "incredibility strong."
"It could be the strongest ever to come here."
His analysis is partly based on history. "Usually a Lions side is selected after one or other of the home unions has been playing particularly good rugby ? but this time England, Ireland and Wales are all playing to the very best international standard," he said.
"Only Scotland has failed to fire."
Such is the potential strength of the Lions that Lochore said a comparison could be selecting a team from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
What an interesting encounter that would be ? Lions v Allawallaboks.