SWANNY’S WORLD OF SPORT: The Lions are just an exhibition team

British Lions tour captain Sam Warburton coves his face after defeat in the first Test against the All Blacks.
British Lions tour captain Sam Warburton coves his face after defeat in the first Test against the All Blacks.

I’ve always expected the All Blacks to beat the British Lions 3-0.

It’s foolish to expect any other result.

The All Blacks perform a horrible haka ahead of the first Lions Test.

The All Blacks perform a horrible haka ahead of the first Lions Test.

England would beat a combined team from the rest of the Six Nations if the composite side were given just four weeks to prepare and every game was played at Twickenham.

Chelsea would beat a team thrown together from the rest of the Premier League if their opponents were handed a punishing schedule at the end of a long domestic season and every game was played at Stamford Bridge.

The Lions are an exhibition team. I enjoy watching them, but individual excellence is no match for an exceptional, well-drilled team who play together regularly.

In the circumstances, and no matter what the British media and Sir Clive Woodward in particular might claim, getting within 15 points of the undisputed world champions isn’t that bad an effort.

Lions scrum half Conor Murray kicks the ball away against the All Blacks.

Lions scrum half Conor Murray kicks the ball away against the All Blacks.

Surprisingly most of the excitement, creativity and dazzling attacking skills on show in the first Test at Auckland last weekend came from the Lions, but all of the power, precision and ball control came from the All Blacks.

The world champions showed handling and off-loading skills under pressure almost as good as those shown by club rugby league players on a weekly basis, which made booting the ball to them consistently in the vain hope someone would drop it a rather optimistic tactic.

Give the ball away against this team and you don’t see it again for 10 minutes.

The Lions did score the greatest try in the history of rugby union in Auckland, but also frustratingly muffed the equivalent of two open goals in football.

I could almost envisage former Posh boss Graham Westley on the phone to Lions coach Warren Gatland explaining the importance of ‘clinicality’.

The Lions concept is a force for good though. Certainly they need it in New Zealand who quite probably won’t be tested again until England beat them in the 2019 World Cup Final in Japan.

The rest of Southern Hemisphere rugby is a shambles. Australia are enjoyably useless, even managing to lose at home to Scotland the other day, who then promptly went and lost to Fiji.

South Africa are average and Argentina have just been beaten at home by England reserves.

The All Blacks are so far ahead of the rest they can spend as much time as they like perfecting those horrible and unnecessary hakas and not be in any danger of their neighbours catching them up on the field.

Worryingly for the Lions, I expect the All Blacks to play with more flair and abandon as the series wears on. More worryingly for the Lions, bad weather wouldn’t even help them such are the opposition’s superior handling skills and scrummaging abilities.

One gripe from a wonderful Auckland spectacle though. Stop the pre-meditated substitutions from 50 minutes onwards as they spoil the flow of the game.