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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May, 2005, 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK
Woodward upbeat as Lions depart
Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward
British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward has vowed to end the tourists' dismal record in New Zealand.

The Lions left for New Zealand on Wednesday evening searching for only their second series win in the country.

And Woodward is confident that his 45-man squad have what it takes to repeat that 1971 victory.

"No-one needs to tell us how tough it is, but we will be the best-prepared tour in Lions' history and we have the making of a great Test side," he said.

"This tour has been a year in the planning and will be one of the great sporting adventures. We're acutely aware of how big the challenge will be.

We'll be picking on form for that first Test match, not on reputation
Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward

"The fact the Lions have won only one Test series in 10 visits says it all.

"I've been on a Lions tour as a player so I know it takes time to gel, but we will gel.

"I know that from what I've seen on the training pitch and the attitude of my players and the coaching staff, we have every reason to feel confident.

"If we can win the Test series it will be an achievement to match any other in rugby. We respect New Zealand but don't fear them."

The Lions face an 11-match tour, including three Tests against the All Blacks.

Drawing with Argentina wasn't deflating
Sir Clive Woodward

"I'll be looking very closely at what happens in every game. We'll be picking on form for that first Test match, not on reputation," said Woodward.

"People tend to come through very strongly on Lions tours. Guys you might not initially think should be in the Test side when the squad is announced start to impress and force their way into the reckoning."

The party will arrive in Auckland at midday local time on 27 May ahead of the first game with Bay of Plenty at Rotorua on 4 June.

The Lions drew their warm-up match 25-25 with Argentina in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Monday.

The lacklustre display against an under-strength Pumas side will have done little for the Lions' confidence, but the result has not dented Woodward's confidence.

"Drawing with Argentina wasn't deflating - you have to take it in your stride," he said.

"You have to start somewhere and now we can get on with it. We were disappointed with the game but no more than that.

"It was a poor performance based on the fact we hadn't played enough times together, no more than that."

The team will be without England's Jason Robinson for the first two games after he was granted leave to stay with his pregnant wife.

Welsh pair Gareth Thomas and Stephen Jones have also had to delay their departures due to commitments with their French clubs Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne.

The Lions last toured New Zealand in 1993 when they lost the series 2-1.

The touring side's only series win in New Zealand came in 1971 from a team skippered by Wales' John Dawes.

The first Test takes place in Christchurch on 25 June, followed by the second Test in Wellington on 2 July and the finale in Auckland on 9 July.

News conference: Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward

Interview: Jonny Wilkinson

Interview: Lions manager Bill Beaumont



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