All Blacks coach Graham Henry believes his side’s year-end tour to Europe will be a tougher assignment than their summer whitewashing of the British & Irish Lions.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry believes that his side’s year-end tour to Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland will be a tougher assignment than their summer whitewashing of the British & Irish Lions.
Speaking on Saturday, shortly after New Zealand defeated Australia 34-24 to claim the Tri Nations crown, Henry said his side’s attempt to win rugby’s coveted “Grand Slam” – victory over all four Home Unions – is a tall order simply because the teams will each paradoxically prove tougher than the Lions.
Henry believes the season-ending tour of Europe will be dotted with minefields with opponents still smarting from the Lions’ 3-0 Series loss to the All Blacks.
“The players in that part of the world are good people. They have a lot of pride and they will want to put their head up again,” said Henry. “The only way they can do that is to play well against the All Blacks.”
Forwards coach Steve Hansen expects Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland to all be more cohesive than the massive Lions tour squad, which was run by a myriad of coaches and managers under Sir Clive Woodward.
“The big difference between playing the Lions and the home nations is that you’ve got a group of people who understand each other, who understand the philosophy of how they want to play,” Hansen said.
“They all understand what they’re trying to achieve. I don’t know if that was the case with the Lions.”
The New Zealand Rugby Union have granted Henry his wish to take an enlarged squad of 35 players on the tour, allowing him to introduce a handful more new names to the touring squad that will be named on October 24.
Anybody who followed the Lions tour during the summer will be well aware of how the All Blacks management played down expectations for their own public for the Test Series, but as they prepare for their assault on Europe, Irish fans will be eagerly awaiting their arrival for the clash with Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland on Saturday, November 12.