WAITANGI, New Zealand — Kneejerk conclusions will not be drawn from the British & Irish Lions’ struggles against the Provincial Barbarians, but the tourists will have to learn quickly and find some try-scoring form if they are to knock over the All Blacks, according to captain Sam Warburton.
One article in Sunday’s press in New Zealand suggested that on Saturday’s form, the Lions’ win over the Provincial Barbarians will be the only one they enjoy on this tour if they continue with that level of form.
But Warburton says the standard of opponents awaiting the Lions will ensure they are not half-cooked for the first Test. Warburton will not feature in the Lions’ starting 15 for their next match against the Blues, but will play a key role in guaranteeing the team picked are battle-hardened and tactically aware for Wednesday’s game.
“It would be huge for us to get some scalps from Super Rugby sides,” Warburton said. “We want to be tested, and it’s probably only until we play sides like that, that we’ll get any better.
“We don’t want to be playing teams where we’re winning by 40 points, they’re the best teams for us right now to compare. And when I came out to New Zealand last year, I came in from two months out, I came in for the first Test and it was a baptism of fire.
“So it’s great to have these games to get used to the style and the tempo, acclimatise ourselves and give ourselves the best chance in a few weeks’ time.”
Warburton led the Lions for their Maori welcome at Waitangi on Sunday, and did a superb job of answering the various challenges levelled in his direction. Though he has been an impressive figurehead for the tourists in their off-field duties, he is keen to put right their on-field wrongs from Saturday evening.
Their underwhelming physicality will be addressed, but Warburton also wants to see the Lions create more try-scoring opportunities and has challenged the team to build a score as they keep one eye on the Test series.
“We want to get this back line moving. We’re not just about taking scrums and driving lineouts; we’ve got some electric players in that back line so we want to play some rugby and score some tries.
“We treat each game like a Test match and take three points when they’re on offer, but we do realise that to play New Zealand, you’re going to have to score 20 points minimum. You’re going to have to score points against New Zealand.
“We know we’re not going to win the Test series by taking every three-point opportunity. We’re trying to work on some attacking stuff. If you can score three or four tries a game, you’ll give yourself a good chance.”
Despite the Lions’ underwhelming start to the tour, Warburton played down any notion that players will have already made or broken their chances of starting the first Test against the All Blacks.
But despite conclusions not readily being drawn, he knows full well they must find some tempo. “By no means will anyone have ruled themselves in or out with this one game,” Warburton said.
“After maybe three or four games you start painting a pretty decent picture. Players know, we’re not stupid, after three or four games you can kind of pencil in what the Test side will be. We’ve got two weeks now where it really is a big audition to get in that Test team.”