Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lions Must Put It All on Line -- Trying to Get a Lead and Hang on Just Won't Work; JONNY WILKINSON Exclusive

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lions Must Put It All on Line -- Trying to Get a Lead and Hang on Just Won't Work; JONNY WILKINSON Exclusive

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

JONNY WILKINSON had to endure the mental pressure of having to win a Second Test with the Lions in Wellington after the 'pride' of 2005 had been beaten a week earlier by the All Blacks and believes the current players have to adopt an "all or nothing" approach tomorrow to keep this series alive.

Twelve years ago, Wilkinson and his Lions team-mates failed in their bid to save the series, going down 48-18, thanks to Dan Carter's 33-point masterclass -- and it made the build-up to the final Test a massive downer.

Wilkinson, a Lion in 2001 and 2005, has vivid memories of the 21-3 First Test defeat to the All Blacks, which also saw captain Brian O'Driscoll badly injured, making the build-up to the next match even harder. "You have to shut the Third Test right out of your thinking, [as though] it doesn't exist," said England's 2003 World Cup hero, who played in six Lions Tests. "The players have to make a pact which says they are happy to give absolutely everything -- that is how serious it is.

"It was a very difficult position going into the Second Test in Wellington in 2005. It was tense, tough and quite tricky. There was the distraction of looking back on that First Test and wondering why and how we had lost, plus the 'what ifs' of losing the second one and the series.

"The Lions will have to give everything -- and trying to get a lead and hanging on just won't work. I have never seen a team hang on in New Zealand. Discipline and not giving away penalties is key, but players have to be performing on the edge. If you look at the All Blacks, you would say they don't give many away, but just look how close they are to that fine line. That is where they are so good, and if they are over the line then they do it in a way that is not seen."

Only the class of 1971 have won a series in New Zealand and the problems of touring the country and trying to beat the No1 team in the world can become worryingly daunting. Wilkinson insists that past Lions glories should be acknowledged but not used as a template for this current tour. It is vital, he says, that the 2017 tourists make their own history.

"You can get a little bit distracted by believing you should be feeling a certain way because it is the Lions," added Wilkinson. "Although the shirt represents all the Lions tours that have taken place, it is not a case of comparing the tour with 1971 or 2005. There is no rulebook and you have to try to be the best you can be -- and that can go missing sometimes, because the Lions is so big. The only thing that will win the Test match on Saturday is the very best of each of them individually.

"History matters -- and it is inspiring -- but those winning Lions tour of the past were achieved by players being the best they could be at that point. …

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