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'The underdog always has his day. I certainly wouldn't back against us'

Lions defence coach Andy Farrell has seen confidence in the tourists this week.

Murray Kinsella reports from Wellington

THE ODDS ARE firmly stacked against the Lions, but the bullish Andy Farrell isn’t buying into the lack of belief on the outside for a second.

“The underdog has always had his day, hasn’t he?” said Farrell on Friday. “When you get a squad together it’s powerful. I certainly wouldn’t back against us.”

Sam Warburton talks to the team Sam Warburton speaks to his team on Friday in Porirua Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Farrell is a key motivator within the Lions set-up so we can safely say that his mood reflects that of the players who will take on the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday [KO 8.35am Irish time, Sky Sports].

The tourists are 5/1 to pull off a surprise victory in the second Test but their chat all week has painted a picture of a confident group, one that believes they were very close to a winning performance in Auckland last weekend.

“Everyone in this room understands the size of the task before we came here, how difficult it was going to be,” continued Farrell. “But I just see how the lads are preparing and there is a sense of excitement about what a great game this could be.”

Having had their pride stung by being physically beaten in the first Test, there is little fear that the Lions will not be highly motivated.

Many of the players have referred to this game as the biggest of their careers – bigger than World Cups and Grand Slam deciders with their nations – and with the series on the line, the build-up has been mentally intense.

Indeed, part of Farrell’s job has been to ensure that the Lions players don’t forget about being smart amidst their emotional intensity.

“You can tip people over the edge and not let them be the rugby player they are so you have to be cute about it,” said the defence specialist.

“You will not win Test matches by being raging mad. You don’t want your passion to cloud your judgment. The tone has to be right.”

Andy Farrell Farrell is the chief motivator in the Lions' coaching staff. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Farrell is important in helping the Lions be at the right pitch mentally, and most of that work is channeled through and into their defence, which must be perfect in Westpac Stadium.

The All Blacks made great gains with a direct tactical approach in attack last weekend, working off scrum-half Aaron Smith and causing the Lions serious problems with their rapid recycling and intelligent ball-carrying.

Towering inside centre Sonny Bill Williams is expected to lead something similar from the All Blacks in the second Test, particularly with the rain settling over Wellington on Saturday, but Farrell has had to prepare for all eventualities.

“I don’t think it was just Sonny Bill [in the first Test], everyone in their team played a direct game,” said Farrell. “If I just concentrated on just one player or one way of playing, such as how the All Blacks played last week, I’d be a fool.

“They are the masters of not doing the same thing twice, albeit physicality will always be a part of anyone’s game in a Test match, certainly one of this magnitude. We’ve got to be ready for all outcomes.”

“The boys ain’t shying away from it [the first Test performance]. They hold their hands up when you show them stuff. We allowed them too much time and space to impose their game on us. We need our problem solvers out there.

“We need to see a reaction from that, but you don’t just win the game by being raging mad. You have to be smart about how you go about these things.”

The All Blacks themselves provided something of a template for the Lions in the build-up to this game when they played Ireland twice in November.

British and Irish Lions Jonathan Sexton during the kicking practice Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

They were bettered physically in the first Test in Chicago, but bounced back in vicious fashion in Dublin two weeks later. As Ireland’s defence coach, Farrell appreciated that effort but he believes the Lions will need even more.

“It wasn’t rocket science what they came to the Aviva with. I spoke to their coaching staff after the game and there was a question of buying into the ethos of the team. Obviously, physicality and character was at the top of that list.

“You saw how they performed on the back of that. Whether they played the best rugby that day is to be questioned. We’ve got to have the whole package.”

All Blacks:

15. Israel Dagg
14. Waisake Naholo
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
12. Sonny Bill Williams
11. Rieko Ioane
10. Beauden Barrett
9. Aaron Smith

1. Joe Moody
2. Codie Taylor
3. Owen Franks
4. Brodie Retallick
5. Samuel Whitelock
6. Jerome Kaino
7. Sam Cane
8. Kieran Read (captain)

Replacements:

16. Nathan Harris
17. Wyatt Crockett
18. Charlie Faumuina
19. Scott Barrett
20. Ardie Savea
21. TJ Perenara
22. Aaron Cruden
23. Ngani Laumape

Lions:

15. Liam Williams
14. Anthony Watson
13. Jonathan Davies
12. Owen Farrell
11. Elliot Daly
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Maro Itoje
5. Alun Wyn Jones
6. Sam Warburton (captain)
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements:

16. Ken Owens
17. Jack McGrath
18. Kyle Sinckler
19. Courtney Lawes
20. CJ Stander
21. Rhys Webb
22. Ben Te’o
23. Jack Nowell

Referee: Jerome Garces [FFR].

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