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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 9 August, 2020

Lions schedule criticised by All Blacks coach Hansen

Warren Gatland’s side arrive in New Zealand tomorrow.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

NEW ZEALAND COACH Steve Hansen is the latest detractor of the Lions’ scheduling of their tour down under.

The All Blacks coach does not believe the Lions have afforded themselves enough time to acclimatise before the first of 10 games against the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on Saturday.

Many critics of the Lions’ plans believe they are playing too many warm-up matches – Warren Gatland’s men play six times before meeting the All Blacks in Auckland on June 24.

The Lions departed London on Monday and will arrive on Wednesday, New Zealand time. Hansen believes they could be undercooked for their first contest as a result.

“You’d want to be there a week at the minimum [ahead of the first game],” he told The Times.

“It’s nicer to be longer than that. When we tour we have total control over when we leave the country.

“If most of them are not playing, what’s stopping them getting on a plane now with most of the squad, for example?

“The option you’ve got is for the sake of the team. We’ll get over there and we’ll see [the rest of] you when you get here.

“What they are asking them to do is pretty difficult, get here Wednesday, play Saturday.”

While the physical challenge goes without saying on the tour, much focus has been placed on the kicking battle.

Beauden Barrett – widely regarded as the best kicker from hand in world rugby – has been taken off goal-kicking duties by Hurricanes.

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Though Hansen accepts that the likes of Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny may have the upper hand from the tee, he does not believe Gatland has much versatility among his kickers.

“I don’t think we’ve lost a Test match through his goal-kicking,” Hansen said of Barrett.

“People are panicking because he’s not goal-kicking for the Hurricanes. That was initially because he had a side strain and it was hurting when he was goal-kicking. He stopped and his brother [Jordie] took over.

“I don’t care [that he isn't the Hurricanes' first-choice kicker]. I know he can mentally cope with the task of goal-kicking in the arena.

“There’s no doubt the Lions have got great goal-kickers. Now, pressure is a funny thing and I know our guys have lived under that pressure for a long time. And while they might not have the stats to match, I believe and have faith they’ll kick the ones that matter.

“There’s no doubt they have got great goal-kickers, but on the park, only one of them can kick.”

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