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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Lions confident on arrival in NZ
Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll leads his squad through the arrivals hall
Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward declared his side can win the Test series against the All Blacks after the squad arrived in Auckland on Friday.

"I have spent most of the last 12 months preparing for this day and it is fantastic to have arrived in New Zealand," Woodward said.

"There has been a lot of travelling but everyone is ready for the challenge.

"I believe we can win. We have world class players and now we have to blend them into a world class side."

Captain Brian O'Driscoll led the squad out at Auckland airport, where they were greeted by cheers from fans.

The players spent 15 minutes signing autographs before boarding a coach, with a Lion mascot on the front dashboard, to their hotel.

A sole All Blacks supporter performed the haka, laying down the challenge that awaits on what Woodward described as "the last of the great tours".

If the Lions were to win the Test series it would surpass any achievement any of us have achieved in the past
Sir Clive Woodward
"I know what rugby means here, that it is defined in the culture, but I think you all know how passionate we are about our rugby," he added.

"I make no apologies for saying I believe this is the best prepared Lions tour in the history of Lions rugby. The squad has the makings of a great Lions Test side.

"I believe this is the biggest sporting event in the world this year and I have done all my planning on that format."

Woodward pointed out the Lions' 10% success rate on previous New Zealand tours, reiterating the "enormous challenge" that awaits.

"The players here have been successful but if the British & Irish Lions were to win the Test series in New Zealand it would surpass any achievement any of us have achieved in the past," he added.

"We come here with enormous respect for New Zealand rugby, for the New Zealand players and the New Zealand coaching staff - but we have no fear."

We must ensure we keep the home-ground advantage
All Blacks coach Graham Henry
The detail in the All Blacks preparations has extended to what their supporters will be wearing at the three Test matches.

The team's sponsor, telecommunications company Telecom, will be dishing out black plastic ponchos at match venues in a bid to counter the swathes of red shirts worn by visiting fans.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who led the Lions in 2001, is aware of the lift that thousands of red-clad supporters provided the tourists in Australia.

"Fans can help the players on the field with their colourful presence and with the noise they make," Henry said.

"We must ensure we keep the home-ground advantage. These factors can make a difference."

Away from the pitch, Woodward is insistent he wants his squad to enjoy what New Zealand has to offer.

"People say touring isn't touring any more and complain that there isn't time for a day-off," he added.

"I believe there should be. I've taken on board what people have said and that's why we're bringing 45 players.

"There will be days off to enjoy New Zealand, play some golf and visit the country.

"I want everyone to have learnt from New Zealand and to come back having enjoyed the trip."

The squad will head to Rotorua on Sunday for a traditional Maori welcome before their tour opener against Bay of Plenty on 4 June.


WATCH AND LISTEN
News conference: Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward


Interview: Jonny Wilkinson


Interview: Lions manager Bill Beaumont




SEE ALSO
Pick your Lions XV
24 May 05 |  Lions in NZ
Lions tour venue guides
18 May 05 |  Lions in NZ
Early history of the Lions
18 May 05 |  Lions in NZ
Fixture list for Lions tour to NZ
08 Apr 05 |  Lions in NZ
Lions player profiles
25 May 05 |  Lions in NZ
All Blacks player profiles
25 May 05 |  Lions in NZ


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