Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lions Wary of a Backlash after All Blacks' Response in Dublin

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lions Wary of a Backlash after All Blacks' Response in Dublin

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

THE immediate response to Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago last November should provide the most important reference point for Lions head coach Warren Gatland and his players heading into Saturday's titanic duel.

Six members of the Lions match squad that set up this Third Test decider thanks to the 24-21 win in Wellington last Saturday were in the Ireland side that were beaten 21-9 by New Zealand in Dublin two weeks later.

The ferocity of the All Blacks' response to the 40-29 thumping in Chicago earned yellow cards for Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa, while flanker Sam Cane somehow escaped punishment from referee Jaco Peyper for a charge on Robbie Henshaw that saw the centre carried from the pitch on a stretcher wearing a neck brace.

Steve Hansen's side were out for revenge that day in Dublin as the Irish win had stopped them creating a new 19-match unbeaten Test run. England then equalled the All Blacks' 18-match streak in the Six Nations last season, only to see it also brought to an end by Ireland, who additionally stopped Eddie Jones' men from clinching a second successive Grand Slam.

For Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Sean O'Brien and CJ Stander, who faced the All Blacks in Dublin and are expected to be in the Lions' match 23 on Saturday, that car-crash loss on home soil will be used to ensure Gatland's men are ready for a physical onslaught at Auckland's Eden Park.

The hosts are having to endure a forensic examination of their home defeat something the three-times World Cup-winners rarely suffer. With rugby part of every New Zealanders' DNA, a Test defeat really hurts.

Hansen, his coaching staff and players have been told in no uncertain terms how disappointed the nation was at the final whistle in Wellington.

Sonny Bill Williams received a fourweek ban for his red card and apologised to his "brothers" for letting them down. …

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