Lions vs All Blacks Squad Depth Infographic
Just how does New Zealand’s much celebrated depth actually go at the moment in comparison to the Lions squad?
Warren Gatland brought 41 players with him on that Qantas flight in an attempt to survive the tough tour schedule against our Super Rugby teams, the Maori All Blacks and three tests against the All Blacks. How do they stack up against our boys in black? Well, pretty bloody good in terms of international experience actually. Good enough that maybe we should be concerned.
We’ve all heard this endlessly since they arrived: that the Lions by their nature have it tough because they lack time together and have to graft different team cultures together, maybe even smooth out some national grudges. Yet, the main advantage they have is the fact they are a team comprised of the best players from four Tier 1 nations – he gets to pick the best they have to offer.
Click the thumbnail above to see how I’ve stacked up the Lions against the All Blacks squad just named by Steve Hansen in a Manhattan skyline style. I think it shows their men in a good light, and I also think it shows how our experience and depth very much sits in a few players, in a few key positions who are all very much in our first XV (if fit). Dane Coles (head), Kieran Read (thumb), Jerome Kaino (thigh), Aaron Cruden (knee), Ben Smith (head) are all players creeping back in after injuries and rests. Throw them in with Owen Franks in the front row, Whitelock or Retallick in the locks, Aaron Smith at halfback Savea and Dagg in the back three, and you get a core of experience that once removed leaves a gap in Test caps down to the next cab off the rank.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of faith in Hansen and his players – every player in that squad is by virtue of being picked World Class. I just think it is fair to note that once the Tests start, they are going to be physically brutal on both teams, but when I look at the Lions squad I see a bit more eveness to the spread of experience, both across the park and within positions. They have to survive too, and also their spare players have to play the Super teams, but this is going to be epic. New Zealand fans will stay loyal, and back our lads, but you have to admit that three tests in a row against the same big, experienced team is not the norm for the ABs to face. It will be difficult. But that is what makes Lions Tours so special.
I’m not making excuses. I’m pointing out hurdles, that’s all. I still believe we are the thinkingest team in rugby, and we’ll get around that wall of red. But this will not be a 3-0 Blackwash