Opta’s Jonny McCormick has given his view on the Lions’ first game against the All Blacks.
The Lions’ tour to New Zealand really kicks into action this weekend with the long awaited first Test taking place on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to it both on a personal and work-related level. Lions tours are always special occasions, but I look forward to the tour to New Zealand more than any other, purely based on the fact that it sees the Lions’ – supposedly the best that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer – go up against undoubtedly the best rugby team, and arguably the best sports team, on the planet.
Winning the series will be a huge task for the Lions, and though Warren Gatland and plenty of the current squad have experience of beating Australia in 2013, the All Blacks are a different beast altogether. The Lions could not have picked more difficult venues to play the All Blacks. At Eden Park, where the first and third Tests will take place, the All Blacks haven’t lost since 1994, and are currently on a 37-match winning run there. To put that into context, three of the players who are named in the squads for Saturday – Maro Itoje, Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown – weren’t even born the last time the All Blacks tasted defeat at the venue.
It won’t get easier for the Lions either. The only ground in world rugby that has seen a team record a higher win percentage at than New Zealand’s 86% win rate at Eden Park, is Westpac Stadium, the location of the second Test where the All Blacks have won 90% of their matches.
It will certainly be an uphill task for the Lions, however I don’t think they’ll be blown away in the same fashion as many other teams are when facing the All Blacks; they’ve slowly grown throughout the tournament and have been tested more already than on any other tour, which should stand them in good stead for the challenge ahead – it’s set up to be an intriguing and exciting clash, and one I’m very much looking forward to. Roll on Saturday…
Selection of Opta Facts:
- The Lions have won the opening Test on three of their last five tours, this after losing five opening Tests in a row before that.
- The All Blacks have won 11 of the last 12 meetings between the sides, with the Lions’ only win in that run coming in the second Test in 1993.
- The All Blacks haven’t lost at home so far this decade, winning 46 in a row on home soil since losing to South Africa in Hamilton in 2009.
- Since losing to France and drawing against South Africa in 1994, New Zealand have since won 37 games in a row at Eden Park; only on five occasions in that run have the All Blacks failed to win by at least 10 points.
- Overall, the All Blacks have won 86% (69/81) of their games at Eden Park; of venues to have hosted 20+ Test matches, only Wespac Stadium, where the 2nd Test will be played, has seen a higher win percentage by any team (NZ – 90%, 19/21).