Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport

Article excerpt

British Lions fans of anervous disposition should avoid the telly of a Saturday morning. Live before your very eyes, as the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship unfolds, is the rebirth of an extraordinary new All Blacks side, now without Carter, McCaw, Ma'a Nonu and all. And, scarily, evenbetter than that World Cup-winning side. Warren Gatland, be very afraid.

Our own Maro Itoje, the Saracens and England lock, wins every game he plays. The All Blacks win every game they play. How many players eligible for the Lions would get into the current Kiwi starting XV? Probably just Itoje. And how many from the rest of the world would get in? Again, probably just Itoje.

It's a thrilling prospect: the cream of British rugby taking on the world champions at the end of the season. But these All Blacks aren't just the champions -- they are beginning to feel like the greatest side ever. A New Zealand 2nd XV would probably win the Six Nations. The Lions might win only a couple of games on the tour, particularly now that the All Blacks have been released to turn out for their Super Rugby franchises.

So far in the championship, New Zealand have brushed aside Australia twice, and last weekend they were held for 50 minutes by a brave Argentine side. Then in 25 minutes or so Dan Carter's replacement, the magnificent Beauden Barrett, was the inspiration behind five brilliant tries that swamped the punch-drunk Pumas. He might look like a chorister, Barrett, but he's as deadly as a cheetah with a sidestep. He scored the winning try in the World Cup final and has been a joy to watch for years. He's a better all-round player than Carter, though not as prolific off the tee. But these Kiwis win by scoring breathtaking tries, not walloping over endless penalties. I'm booking my tickets for New Zealand now.

There's an interesting triangular T20 tournament at Edgbaston today, with an Archbishop of Canterbury's Xl taking on a Vatican side and a squad of Yorkshire imams. …

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