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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Johnson's lowdown on the Lions
By Andrew McKenzie

Martin Johnson led the Lions on their last two tours

Few people are better qualified to give their views on the Lions' tour to New Zealand than Martin Johnson.

He captained the Lions on their 1997 and 2001 tours and led England to victory at the 2003 World Cup.

The giant lock has played under both Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward and All Blacks coach Graham Henry.

And he has first-hand experience of New Zealand after touring the country several times and representing them at Under-21 level early in his career.

Here he gives us his lowdown on the forthcoming tour:

WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT LIONS TOURS?

This is the last real rugby tour left - no one else goes and plays 11 games in one country. The Lions are the only team to do it and it's a hard thing to go and do.

That's the challenge and if you can do it, you're making history.

WHAT IS THE FORMULA FOR LIONS SUCCESS?

I think Lions tours are quite simple. You have to have a tremendous team spirit, a tenacious will-to-win and determination.

But it's very, very difficult because the odds are stacked against you - history tells us that and the quality of rugby in New Zealand tells us that.

It's going to be a very, very tough tour, but if those guys are a very strong squad, a very strong team or unit, they've got a chance of doing it.

CAN THE LIONS WIN AND WHAT ARE THE ALL BLACKS' WEAKNESSES?

I don't think the All Blacks team has weaknesses.

But the Lions can beat the All Blacks - there's no doubt about that.

You've just got to go out and play to your absolute utmost and hope that things go your way.

They are two very good teams, but the Lions are a scratch team. They've never played a game together and they've got to go out and solve all those problems very quickly.

They have to come together as a squad and get a team spirit very quickly, as well as playing tough provincial games.

HOW TOUGH WILL THE WARM-UP GAMES BE?

They're going to some places they haven't been for 12 years and some they haven't been for even longer than that.

I don't think they played the Bay of Plenty in 1993, I don't think they played Manawatu in 1993 and they haven't played Wellington for 20-odd years.

They're historically huge games. Everywhere they go, they'll be gunning for them and that's part of the challenge of touring.

WHAT IMPACT WILL LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO HAVE?

Lawrence looked in tremendous form in the Zurich Premiership final. He looked very, very fit.

He's not played Test matches but he's played all the club games and Richard Hill hasn't played a lot of rugby so he's going to be very fresh.

Jonny Wilkinson and Will Greenwood have not played much so they are going to be fresh as well.

As long as they've got their match sharpness, there are some guys who haven't had a nine-month season to wear them down. They're also going to be pretty keen so that is a plus for them.

IS WILKINSON THE X-FACTOR?

I don't know if he's the X-factor but he's a very good player at fly-half.

He's going there with Stephen Jones, Charlie Hodgson and Ronan O'Gara and whoever plays the best is going to get the job.

It doesn't matter what any of them have done in the past - whoever plays the best will get the job.

If Jonny is at his best he offers some things that probably no one else there can do, particularly defensively, and he's very experienced in the big-pressure games.

He's played the biggest games you can play - a decider on a Lions tour and a World Cup final - so he's a very, very experienced guy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF BRIAN O'DRISCOLL AS CAPTAIN?

I've never been in a team when he was captain, but I've been in a team he's played in and he's a good guy.

He seems to have done very well with the Irish. The thing he needs to do is play well and be himself, he doesn't have to try to be anyone else.

They guys will get with him and get behind him and get on with the job.

He's got quality people with him. So it's not all resting on his shoulders he's got a very experienced squad out there with him and a good management team.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CLIVE WOODWARD AND GRAHAM HENRY?

I had a very short exposure to Graham Henry in 2001 and he was trying to do something there with a very structured game, as a lot of people were at the time.

They are both very astute, they'll both be looking to gain an edge wherever they can gain it.

They will be looking to get one up on each other, but really it comes down to the players you know.

There's only so much Clive can do in that short period of time, but he's got good players.

He needs to get them all on side, all believing in what they're doing, believing in each other and then they've got a chance.

Graham's got a very, very talented squad of players and the whole of New Zealand to choose from when they get down there.

I think it will come down to what it always comes down to in Test matches, close games. Whoever can take their chances on the day will come through.




LIONS TOUR 2005

ALL BLACKS WHITEWASH LIONS




VOTE RESULTS
What was the main reason for the Lions' whitewash in NZ?
All Blacks just too good
58%
Woodward's selections
30%
Injuries to key players
6%
Squad was too big
6%
97190 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed



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