Wales and British & Irish Lions prop Adam Jones has been on two Lions tours — playing in five Tests — and has won 95 caps for Wales.
He knows Warren Gatland better than most and understands the challenges and thrills of a Lions tour. Currently in a player-coach role at Harlequins, with over 17 years in the game, Jones’ knowledge of the sport is unrivalled and he gives his expert insight to ESPN.
Facing the All Blacks is difficult enough, let alone when they’re hurting. They’ll be peeved after Saturday’s loss to the British & Irish Lions in Wellington, and a wounded New Zealand side who haven’t had it their way have a knack of delivering a passionate response when they get their next chance.
Playing against them in Cardiff for Wales back in 2006 will always stick with me. For some reason the powers that be decided that it would be a good idea to try and convince the All Blacks to do their haka before we responded with our national anthem.
Usual tradition is to do the anthems first before they lay down their challenge. They obviously said no and subsequently decided to do the haka in their changing room, which was shown on the big screen at the Millennium Stadium before the anthems were sung.
They put 40-odd points on us that day, and Nick Evans — who I have played with for the last couple of years at Harlequins and was involved in that All Blacks squad — has since told me the incident ensured they wanted to destroy us.
As players we had wound them up without realising because the management and our Welsh Rugby Union wanted to mess around with the haka, which proved to be the wrong call.
I’m not saying the Lions have gone out of their way to ‘poke the bear’ to use a quote Warren Gatland used in the media this week, but they need to be prepared for a backlash.
The equation the Lions now face reminds me a little bit of the one we found ourselves in four years ago. We lost the second Test to Australia by a point in Melbourne having won the opener in Brisbane.
We flew up to Noosa, a small little beach town out of the chaos. We were there for three or four days just to chill out away from the rugby and we didn’t really do a lot.
The boys have been in Queenstown this week recharging the batteries as they come to the end of a 10-month season. They’ve definitely got 80 minutes left in them regardless but it’ll be nice for them mentally to relax the mind and do some of the activities you can do down there.
It certainly worked for us in 2013, but at the same time they’ll know full well that they’ve got the biggest game of their lives coming up so I don’t know how much sleep they’ll be getting.
I didn’t really feel the pressure in the lead up to that third Test in Sydney, mainly because all the attention was on one man. Once the team was released and everyone saw that Gats had dropped Brian O’Driscoll all the focus was on that selection rather than the game itself.
I don’t know whether that was a masterstroke by him to take some of the pressure off us, but we just knew from then we had to get out there and perform on Saturday.
You never know with Gats, but I can’t see him dropping another bombshell this week. If he wants to chuck in someone out of left field then he will. But I feel like the forward pack really fronted up in the second Test so I can’t see any changes there, and in the back line I felt the 10-12 axis with Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell worked well.
Mako Vunipola gave away a few penalties which wasn’t ideal but he offers a different type of power in the tackle compared to the other props on tour, so I reckon he’ll keep his place.
Whatever happens on Saturday, this tour has brought back a lot of pride to the shirt. The trips in 2001 and 2005 put a bit of a dampener on the whole idea, but there will be a lot of momentum behind the Lions going forward.
There’s a bit of talk about where the tours fit on the future global calendar. For me, it’s got to keep going and I think 95 percent of fans would say the same thing.
If the new global season stops it then I think whoever is in that meeting and makes that call needs to bugger off somewhere else. Playing the Lions is a big deal, as you’ll see again this Saturday at Eden Park.