AUCKLAND, New Zealand — It has been 8391 days since the All Blacks were beaten at Eden Park.
The British & Irish Lions are aware of the magnitude of the wall they have to climb if they are to storm New Zealand’s castle, but they are parking that record to focus on their own achievements against the All Blacks as they look to create history on Saturday in the first Test.
Conor Murray is one player who is drawing on the knowledge gleaned from Ireland’s memorable win over New Zealand in Chicago.
That win — referenced pre-tour by Warren Gatland as a key experience for the group — has given this team belief and though the All Blacks will be a different beast on Saturday, there is a quiet confidence in the Lions.
“Teams have played against New Zealand and come close, the home nations have won against New Zealand in the past, so I think we’re drawing on that more so than looking at their impressive record in Eden Park,” Murray said.
“This is a whole new team, a whole new pod of players with massive talent and I think we’re more excited about that. It is a really impressive record but if there ever was a team that has the potential if we click, we’d be excited about what we can do. That’s the challenge, a challenge against the best team in the world and it’s where you want to be.”
Similar to the Eden Park factor, the All Blacks’ ability to find another gear in the final quarter of the match is on the Lions’ radar, so too the strength of their bench.
To combat this, the Lions know they have to put in an 80-minute performance if they are to go 1-0 up in the series.
“One of the main things for me is that you’ve got to be confident and willing to play rugby against the All Blacks,” Murray said.
“I’ve learned in the past, in 2013 in Dublin, we got quite a good lead and then we probably panicked a bit and tried to maintain that lead and hold out.
“Whereas looking back on the Chicago game, you’ve got to keep playing, you’ve got to keep attacking and stay in the game — not go into your shell. That’s easier said than done and again that’s the challenge, to maintain that for 80 minutes.
“Decision-making, execution of game plan, all those things come into it too but for me the main thing to do is keep playing.”
Murray will spend the hours before the game trying to enjoy the build-up. There are expected to be 20,000 Lions fans in the stadium on Saturday, a number which will include the scrum-half’s family.
They will be watching on as he plays alongside Owen Farrell in the half-backs, a combination assistant coach Rob Howley believes sees the best scrum-half and fly-half “in the northern hemisphere” link up.
Murray knows the importance of getting his box kicks on the money, but so too the chase and making sure the wingers and Jonathan Davies are well-primed to go hurtling after one of his scooping nudges.
It is a key area of Murray’s game, and has received plenty of attention in the build up to Saturday but he will be focusing on his own processes while trying to take in the whole occasion and honour of representing the Lions.
When asked if this was the biggest game of a hugely impressive career, he answered “Yeah, to put it simply”.
“I thinks so,” Murray continued. “Just to be involved in a group of players like this; the talent that we have… to get the nod from the coaches fills you with confidence. To test yourself against the best team in the world is going to be really special.”