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The challenge of beating the All Blacks

Lions Australia Tour 2013

The British & Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand in 2005 will be the largest in the team’s history and adopt a new approach to the challenge of beating the All Blacks.

The British & Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand in 2005 will be the largest in the team’s history and adopt a new approach to the challenge of beating the All Blacks.

Head coach Sir Clive Woodward and chairman and manager Bill Beaumont revealed they will take 44 players and two sets of coaches on tour next year.

And they also unveiled a new look to the traditional Lions tour format in an effort to give themselves the best possible chance of winning the Test series, basing themselves in three centres rather than moving the whole party from venue to venue.

Beaumont said: "In preparation for a tour of this magnitude we will be looking to assemble the largest touring party in Lions history with 44 players and 26 management.

"We have had to look long and hard at the best way that we are going to organise ourselves as a party to achieve success in New Zealand and achieve our ultimate aim of winning the Test series."

The Lions will play 10 matches on tour but will base themselves only in the three Test venues of Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

However, Beaumont stressed the switch would not see abandoned the Lions tradition of forging links with the communities in which they play.

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He said: "A key feature of any Lions tour is our involvement directly with each of the communities that we visit. For this reason we have spent a considerable amount of time with the NZRU putting together a significant programme of interaction by the Lions squad in each of the venues and communities that we play in.

"More than any other recent Lions tour, we plan to put in place a programme that will see the Lions players get out into the local communities, whether through visits to schools, coaching sessions or community activity, throughout the tour.

"In addition we must also not forget the very significant positive contribution the visiting Lions fans will bring to each of the local communities in New Zealand. "

Head coach Woodward added that the aim of the new tour format was to create an environment that would get the best out of such a large squad of players.

He said: "Playing is their focus and the structure that we have put in place will enable them to do that."

And Woodward added: "There were a number of challenges that resulted from the 2001 Tour that needed addressing, from the amount of travelling to the imbalance of playing levels across the squad."

But he stressed: "It’s not a case of having two teams of players, it’s a case of having two sets of coaches so proper focus can be given to the mid-week games and the Saturday games.

"We will now take 44 players and we will have two sets of coaches, and that’s the only real difference – a bigger coaching team.

"We not only believe that this is the best way forward with regard to the welfare of the players but also strongly believe that the flexibility of this system is the best means for preparing all 44 members of the squad for Test match rugby."

The Lions’ new approach and increased public profile has also pleased their hosts. New Zealand RFU deputy chief executive Steve Tew said: "We fully expect that this Tour will be one of the biggest sporting events that the country has ever seen.

"We will continue to work hard with the Lions to ensure that the format and structure of the tour will provide fans of both sides with the classic encounters that they have come to expect with a Lions tour.

"We recognise the impact that the Lions have not only on the local economies but also the benefits that they can bring to local communities.

"Through the community activity that we have planned throughout the tour, New Zealanders will have an unprecedented opportunity for interaction with the touring party through specific events at the grassroots level".

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