After a nutritionally computed, tasty lunch of cooked fish and meat, salad, fresh fruit and pure raspberry ketones, it’s time to see how quickly MHcan develop a united Lions team spirit. Suitably booted, we skip out onto the turf of T wickenham for a skills session with Reddin.
We work on defense drills, hunting as a pack and gathering in co-ordination. Whether organizing our positions at rucks and mauls to keep hold of the ball or operating a drift defence to win it back, Reddin emphasizes the importance of teamwork. “I want to hear you all shout,” he says. “You need to be aware, help one another and let each other know what’s going on all the time. When you move, move together. If one person lags behind or breaks early, gaps appear that opposition can exploit.”
With talent like Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Doug Howlett to call on, the All Blacks are sure to capitalize on any weakness in the Lions squad, both on and off the pitch. And, having lost only one series to the Lions, in 1971, New Zealand will be just as desperate to win. “To understand why a tour of New Zealand is like no other, you must appreciate the emotion that stretches from top to bottom of the country: the fear that New Zealand may one day lose its pre-eminence in rugby union,” explains BBC commentator Eddie Butler, veteran of the 1983 Lions party in New Zealand. “The Lions are on a tour; the All Blacks are on a mission.”
That may be so, but no Lions side has ever been as thoroughly prepared and well trained. It’s likely that Woodward will not have a fully fit Wilkinson to call on this time, but he is not a man to do things by fly-halves anyway. He wants to show that England’s World Cup win was no fluke. The complete system he has set in place should confirm northern hemisphere superiority this summer. Woodward sums up the magnitude of this tour when he says: “It would be bigger than England winning the World Cup to go down there and win. It would be more of an accomplishment.”
“These matches are so often decided on a mistake or stroke of luck,” adds O’Driscoll. “There’s never a huge amount between the teams. We’ll need to play well, our tactics have to be right and we’ll need a bit of luck in terms of avoiding injuries, but I have absolutely no doubt that we can win the series. Of course we can win it. It would be a huge achievement if we did.” Some might say absolutely huge.